The tests may need to be adapted if they are to be of any use for children with certain disabilities and sensory impairments, and consequent adjustments to the interpretation of results may also be necessary.
Such tests are recommended for all children where DME are suspected. Even if the child is ultimately shown not to have a particularly high ability, there is still very valuable information to be gleaned about how we can understand and then dismantle the barriers to a child’s potential achievement.
Commonly-used tests assess cognitive performance dividing it into verbal measures such as comprehension, vocabulary and arithmetic, and non-verbal or performance aspects like mazes, pictures and abstract patterns. Where verbal and non-verbal measures show a significant difference, this is known as a ‘spiky score’ or as ‘subtest scatter’. In these instances the differential between the top and bottom scores may reflect the pupil’s learning difficulty and these problems can sometimes remain hidden until these detailed tests are performed.
In one example, a child’s written work had been far weaker than her oral performance and since there was a visual impairment, all had assumed this was the reason. A more detailed psychological test showed up an auditory deficit that had not yet been articulated and this allowed for more focused and valuable support.
The major tests commonly employed include:
– Weschler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-IV and WISC-R most often used) and Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale. Where these have been found unsuitable for pupils with additional needs, developmental and adaptive tests have been substituted (such as Bayley’s scales). The latter, however, do not provide intelligence measures; they look at personal and social development milestones.
– Raven’s Progressive Matrices. These may need adaptation. There are some specific issues related to testing pupils with additional needs that should form a general guide for good practice.
– Changing the order of test items, interspersing easy aspects among more difficult ones to help maintain the pupil’s motivation. This differs from the traditional technique of starting with easy questions and increasing difficulty.
– Allowing non-standard responses, such as speaking rather than writing, or pointing rather than speaking. (Children with autism, for example, can react adversely to being asked to indicate an answer in a way to which they are not accustomed.)
– Finding alternatives if a pupil is not able to respond to speech. Receiving instructions can also be difficult for some pupils.
– Ensuring the environment in which the test takes place is recognisable to the pupil and non-threatening. 8 00052-2008BKT-EN © Crown copyright 2008 The National Strategies Gifted and Talented Education: Helping to find and support children with dual or multiple exceptionalities
– Allowing for the presence of a familiar carer.
– Discussing preferences with the pupil beforehand where this is appropriate.
– Taking account of the pupil’s timing needs
– typically tests are timed, but pupils with learning problems may have a processing delay or an attention deficit and these could interfere with their true response to a question. Timing should be avoided in these cases.
– Recording reasons for apparent ‘failure’ of a question. For example, it should be noted when a lack of response relates to a characteristic that is associated with the additional need, but is irrelevant to the particular construct being measured.
– Explaining the test as thoroughly as possible. It is up to the people organising and administering the tests to be sure that the results will be (as far as possible) a record of the pupil’s actual ability.