The IQ of a child or teen does not predict their success or failure in the world, nor their chances for a meaningful life that’s full of well being. But in very practical terms, your child will need to function as an adult someday, and take care of themselves, which means getting a job and getting a life. What’s the best job or future path? What isn’t? If you know how your child scored on different parts of the battery of IQ tests, you can guide them to a future that rests on their best scores, and this is especially important for young people with behavioral disorders. Let me explain.
A person’s IQ is the average of the scores from tests for different types of intelligences, and each test can be scored from a range of 0 to ~200. From the Wechsler IQ Scale, used most widely in schools, there are six intelligence types. (There are many different IQ tests in use today, besides the Wechsler Scale.)
- Verbal comprehension Ex: Measures the ability to write, work crossword puzzles, use words creatively or convincingly, tell interesting stories or funny jokes, debate an issue, explain things clearly, and use a large vocabulary.
- Perceptual Reasoning Ex: Measures the ability to put puzzles together, appreciate of art or photography, use geometry, learn best with charts and pictures, draw, notice details.
- Working Memory Ex: Measures the ability to remember strings of numbers or letters, lists, and subjects just observed or subjects recalled from a much earlier time.
- Processing Speed Ex: Memory recall, speed of problem solving, recognition, and correlation.
- Reading Ex: Measures the ability to read and understand different types of writing, to learn and draw conclusions from reading, reading speed, comprehend the meaning in written material.
- Math Reasoning Ex: Ability to solve mysteries, solve logic and math problems, organize things, figure out how things work, use technology, appreciate and apply science.
Your child’s individual intelligence scores are better indications of your child’s strengths and weaknesses. You should support interests that take advantage of where their best intelligence is, their high scores, to prepare them for schooling or a job. On the other hand, if you know where they score low, you can arrange extra support for them before they become adults–or you can guide them away from a future choice (such as a career) where they won’t or can’t thrive.
The philosophy here is to help your troubled child use the best of what they have, and not require them to be well-rounded. Pressuring them to do well in everything isn’t helpful for two reasons: 1. troubled children commonly have a wider range of low to high scores, and they aren’t or can’t be well-rounded; 2. your effort goes into weaknesses they struggle with, instead of strengths that need nurturing and celebrating. For troubled kids especially, self-esteem is critical.
A hypothetical case – Take two very different children with very different IQ scores, yet both with the same behavioral problems in school. They act out, pick fights, hit others and damage others’ things. Sean is a 15-year-old boy with an IQ of 83, diagnosed with ADHD and Fetal Alcohol Effect (FAE); Katy is a 10 year girl with an IQ of 122, diagnosed with PTSD and ODD. In the graph below, Sean’s scores are in red, and Katy’s are in blue.
Sean’s score of 83 is misleading because his overall functioning is much lower. In fact, three of his test scores are below 75, the level designated as developmentally disabled. His special education teachers are surprised he does so poorly in school because he seems so normal on the surface thanks to his above average verbal skills. He has lots of friends. He communicates clearly, he listens to others, and he likes to tell good stories. What should Sean be when he grows up?
Half of Katy’s scores are above gifted, ~130, but her below average verbal ability prevents her from mastering essential social and communication skills. Because she’s so intelligent, people are surprised that she continues poor behavior even though she is punished for it. But Katy’s behavior comes from an early trauma. And with lower verbal skills, she has a harder time communicating her needs, and experiencing the many little interactions that help us mature. Katy can do anything, but what shouldn’t Katy do when she grows up?
To help people understand the implications of IQ, psychologist Dr. Arthur Jensen created a chart that he believed matched IQ scores to careers:
- 89-100 would be employable as store clerks
- 111-120 have the ability to become policemen and teachers
- 121-125 should have the ability to excel as professors and managers
- 125 and higher demonstrate skills necessary for eminent professors, executives, editors
“What is an IQ?” http://homeworktips.about.com/od/homeworkhelp/a/IQ.htm
From this chart, Sean’s IQ of 83 is too low for a store clerk, and yet Sean is able to function pleasantly and helpfully around people in structured situations. He might do fine helping customers in the right kind of store. He’s also good at tackling one day projects with groups of people. Maybe landscaping or neighborhood clean-up is is meaningful to him and he thrives.
Katy could easily become the professor or executive in Dr. Jensen’s chart, yet her verbal skills might limit her to careers that don’t require nuanced interactions with people. She might do best working semi-independently, possibly in technology, science, or engineering. She might love a summer science camp where her intelligence would get the challenges it needs and shine.
What will your child do when he or she grows up? You can’t make their decisions, but you can influence their choices. Introduce them to situations they are predisposed to master.
“No IQ score should be considered an exact measure of intellectual ability… It does not measure creativity, leadership, initiative, curiosity, commitment, artistic skill, musical talent, social skills, emotional well-being, or physical prowess – all components which can be included in definitions of giftedness.”
National Association of Gifted Children http://www.nagc.org/index
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