The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Taking several IQ tests.

From some of the comments I see all over the internet, it is clear that some parents of gifted children - or non-gifted children - get their children to take several IQ tests. I even hear of children being tested every six months or so. Is this a useful practice and what are the dangers?

Well, IQ is supposed to be quite stable throughout life, that is, it shouldn't change much. So, it does seem unnecessary to keep on taking tests. In some cases the parents appear to have children who are less than official cut-offs for gifted programmes - perhaps they are hoping that a "good" test, will take them over the threshold. In others, there seems to be a perception that the child's progress needs to be tracked in this way.

Whatever the motivation for this repeated testing, there is a common danger, which posts also reveal. There is a tendency among some school systems and a large number of professionals to judge the child on the LOWEST test result. I find this absurd, for it has no sound reasoning behind it. They seem to think that the child's "true" ability is measured by their least performance. This doesn't make sense. There are many reasons why a child could under-perform on a particular day: tired, bored, unmotivated, resistant to the test, ill - etc. There are any number of reasons why under-performance could occur - but what reasons could there be for OVER-performance? What is going to make a child perform above the level of their intelligence? Nothing at all - unless they have done a particular test before, quite recently, in which case there will be an increase from familiarity with the test. (Which is why frequent testing on a particular instrument is frowned upon - and often discounted.) Apart from this possible influence, there is nothing that can make a child do better than they should have done - but there are many things that could make a child under-perform.

Given this background, it is clear that those practitioners and school systems that insist on judging a child on the lowest test result are guilty of an injustice. Their reasoning does not make sense. A child's true ability will be closer to the HIGHEST test result obtained - unless that test result was obtained from multiple testing of the same instrument in quick succession (which could raise it a little, but not much).

So, if you have more than one IQ test result and a school system is judging your child - point out the logic above. A child can easily under-perform - but there is just no way they can over-perform.

Then again, if they don't listen to you and you continue to test multiply it is clear that you will decrease the lowest test result obtained - because you will have more chance of catching your child on an off day. Thus the more frequently you test, the more results you will get - and the more chance you will have that one of them will be unusually low, for whatever reason. Ironically, therefore, those who test their child multiply are exposing their child to the risk of being underestimated.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 11:47 AM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree that judgment favoring the lowest test result is absurd. As far as I know, theres no known way to prove that something is NOT present, only that something IS present. I think a high score is evidence that something IS present and should never be disregarded simply because there are lower scores.

Actually, there are ways of raising your IQ. I guess it is debatable how well they work (and I haven't looked into it enough to be sure). But methods do exist, and those that try them will want to find out whether the methods are working.

And of course, theres the possibility that a child has some condition which interferes with his/her IQ score. Anything from a brain tumor to ADD to insomnia might have an effect. So to keep testing a child, they might figure "Eventually he/she will have a good day and his/her real IQ will show".

If some parents are testing their kids often, that could be why.

- Kathy

3:21 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I have seen one study of an attempt to raise the IQ of children by early intervention in their education, continuous stimulation etc. The result? A rise of IQ during the experiment - but several years later a slump right back to where they had started. The intervention, despite its intensity, made no measurable long term difference at all.

Hence I question all those commercial methods that claim to raise IQ: lessons from prior attempts to do so would suggest no lasting effect.

Anyway, that is a side issue. If authorities insist on taking the lowest result multiple testing can only ever be harmful - because the bottom result will just keep on getting lower (statistically) if there are more results to choose from. It is not a particularly helpful situation.

Best wishes

4:09 PM  

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