Some types of IQ tests may wrongly label autistic children as having intellectual disabilities, say two Florida researchers. Douglas Carothers of Florida Gulf Coast University and Ronald Taylor of Florida Atlantic University presented their findings at the annual convention for the Council for Exceptional Children. As many as 70 percent of autistic children have also been diagnosed with intellectual disabilities.
But, as Carothers and Taylor point out, many IQ tests rely on children responding verbally. As Carothers says on Ed Week’s On Special Education blog:
…many children with autism don’t respond to verbal stimuli and may speak little themselves, but some psychologists expect them to respond to questions on an IQ test out loud. If asked to create a sequence from a series of pictures in order to test their social skills, “they may be more interested in the pieces than the whole,” Carothers continued.
In fact, the examiner’s manual of one IQ test, the WISC-IV, cautions that “it is important not to attribute low performance on a cognitive test to low intellectual ability when, in fact, it may be attributable to physical, language, or sensory difficulties.”
Carothers also notes that IQ tests administered to autistic children by people who don’t know them can “pose a challenge.” An examiner who does not know a child may be unaware of subtle and idiosyncratic ways that a child communicates; new situations and interacting with yet unknown-people are often especially difficult for autistic individuals. Add the stress and anxiety that a child may feel in finding her or himself in a test situation and the likelihood of her or him not being able to demonstrate her or his abilities is very high.