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Does WISC-IV Underestimate the Intelligence of Autistic Children?

Abstract

Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC) is widely used to estimate autistic intelligence (Joseph in The neuropsychology of autism. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2011; Goldstein et al. in Assessment of autism spectrum disorders. Guilford Press, New York, 2008; Mottron in J Autism Dev Disord 34(1):19–27, 2004). However, previous studies suggest that while WISC-III and Raven’s Progressive Matrices (RPM) provide similar estimates of non-autistic intelligence, autistic children perform significantly better on RPM (Dawson et al. in Psychol Sci 18(8):657–662, doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2007.01954.x, 2007). The latest WISC version introduces substantial changes in subtests and index scores; thus, we asked whether WISC-IV still underestimates autistic intelligence. Twenty-five autistic and 22 typical children completed WISC-IV and RPM. Autistic children’s RPM scores were significantly higher than their WISC-IV FSIQ, but there was no significant difference in typical children. Further, autistic children showed a distinctively uneven WISC-IV index profile, with a “peak” in the new Perceptual Reasoning Index. In spite of major changes, WISC-IV FSIQ continues to underestimate autistic intelligence.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    To reduce unhelpful biases, we use “autistic” and similar accurate, respectful terminology. See, e.g., Sinclair (1999).

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Acknowledgments

We would like to thank Patricia Jelenic for her help with the database and her contribution to the project. We would also like to thank all the children and families who participated in the study. This study was funded by a career award to IS from Quebec’s Health Research Fund.

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Correspondence to Isabelle Soulières.

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Nader, AM., Courchesne, V., Dawson, M. et al. Does WISC-IV Underestimate the Intelligence of Autistic Children?. J Autism Dev Disord 46, 1582–1589 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-014-2270-z

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Keywords

  • Autism
  • Children
  • Intelligence
  • Wechsler scales
  • Raven’s progressive matrices
  • Abstract reasoning