From the first assessments used by Alfred Binet on French children, to the many tests that have emerged and evolved since then, testing IQ or "intelligence quotient" has become a common way to measure intellectual potential and identify weaker areas in need of support. However, there is controversy attached to IQ testing because of its inability to capture other human strengths, such as character, motivation, creativity and rational thinking skills. Also, when children are tested, behaviors unrelated to intelligence, such as fatigue or hunger, can render results inaccurate. Nevertheless, evaluating aspects of a person's cognitive functioning still offers many benefits.
Teachers may expect compliance and good grades without realizing that gifted children -- those with a high IQ -- stuck in unsuitable learning environments are not necessarily high achieving. As many as 20 percent of gifted children drop out of school due to anxiety and depression. Pediatrician Marianne Kuzujanakis explains that gifted children are sometimes never identified as gifted and their sometimes-intense behaviors can look like psychiatric disorders that result in misdiagnoses and unnecessary medication. Gifted students sometimes need as much support as those with learning disabilities.
Help for Learning Disabled Students
Sometimes, low scholastic achievement is not because of low intelligence. Learning challenges can impact success at school, and if left unidentified, can make a child appear less capable of learning that he actually is. According to the National Institutes of Health, 15 percent of Americans have a learning disability. Some of these include the language disability dyslexia, math disability or dyscalculia, and writing disability or dysgraphia -- all of which negatively affect scholastic achievement. Ruling out a low IQ via intelligence testing helps to further narrow down the search for the source of poor performance in school.
Identification of Learning Disabilities in Gifted Students
Sometimes, learning disabled students are actually gifted. The learning disability and the giftedness mask each other, making the student appear average. However, if the specific areas of weakness and strength are identified through cognitive testing, the student can be supported to better reach her potential. For example, a student with a physical writing disability can be given a keyboard or voice-to-text software, instead of a pencil, to help her transfer her ideas into written form for others to read. Without IQ testing, her advanced ability might continue to go unrecognized and her physical disability allowed to define her capabilities.
Tracking the Impact of Education
Average human intelligence is steadily increasing, so much so that IQ tests are updated every decade or so to ensure that the average score stays at 100 points. Based on data collected from the Wechlser scale, IQ has risen about 20 points during the 20th century. Formal childhood schooling and increasing difficulty in subjects like math are recognized as contributing factors to humankind's cognitive growth. Without organized, standardized intelligence testing, this data would not exist and the impact of formal childhood education on average intelligence would not be as established.
- American Psychological Association: Intelligent Intelligence Testing
- Hoagies Gifted Education Page: Why Do My Child's Test Scores Vary From Test to Test?
- LD Online: What Is a Learning Disability?
- Indiana University: Itelligence Tests
- Psychology Today: Is Your Child Gifted? What to Look for and Why You Should Know
- Huffington Post: The Misunderstood Face of Giftedness
- PBS: Five Misconceptions About Learning Disabilities
- Academia: Rising Mean IQ
- Academia: The Flynn Effect
- Psychology Today: Giftedness Should Not Be Confused With Mental Disorder
- Photo Credit Comstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images
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