Wednesday, March 30, 2011

IQ and Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)

A critical domain of a core assessment battery for ASD is intellectual or cognitive functioning. Establishing the level of cognitive ability is important for both classification and intervention planning purposes. For example, the level of intellectual functioning is associated with the severity of autistic symptoms, skill acquisition and learning ability, and level of adaptive functioning, and is one of the best predictors of long-term outcome. Because the IQs of children with ASD have the same properties as those obtained by other children age 5 years and older, they are reasonable predictors of future educational performance. Thus, an appropriate measure of IQ is considered to be an essential component of the core assessment battery.
The primary goal of conducting an intellectual evaluation includes establishing a profile of the child's cognitive strengths and weaknesses in order to facilitate educational planning and to help determine the presence of any cognitive limitations. Assessment of cognitive strengths and weaknesses is particularly important because of the characteristically uneven profile of skills demonstrated by children with ASD. It is important that the individual test chosen (a) be appropriate for both the chronological and the mental age of the child, (b) provides a full range of standard scores, and (c) measures both verbal and nonverbal skills. Of course, the use of any single score to describe the intellectual abilities of a child with ASD is clearly inappropriate and should never be used for diagnostic confirmation or differential diagnosis of ASD. It also needs to be emphasized that there are no specific cognitive profiles that can “reliably” differentiate children with ASD from children with other disorders. However, when a specific intellectual profile is evident, this can have an important implication for how the child learns best and what intervention activities may be most effective.
A detailed description and application of a core assessment battery can be found in Wilkinson, L. A. (2010). A best practice guide to assessment and intervention for autism and Asperger syndrome in schools.
© Lee A. Wilkinson, PhD

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