Cognitive assessments or intelligence tests (IQ tests) are used to determine a child’s learning capability by identifying their cognitive strengths and weaknesses. When interpreted in combination with comprehensive background information and parent and teacher interviews, the results of cognitive tests can assist with the development of individualised intervention and learning plans for children.
Cognitive assessments with children assist in the examination of:
- Intellectual giftedness: A cognitive assessment will help to determine whether a child can access gifted and talented programs or special classes, including admission to selective schools, acceleration or opportunity classes, and GERRIC (UNSW). It can also guide teachers in the provision of extension activities in the classroom setting.
- Learning difficulties or disabilities: A cognitive assessment in conjunction with an educational assessment can assist in identifying the presence of a learning difficulty or disorder and help teachers make appropriate accommodations for students in the classroom. This information can be used to manage and minimise negative experiences at schools such as poor academic results, school avoidance and low self-esteem.
- Intellectual difficulties or disabilities: An assessment will assist in identifying children with an intellectual disability, which is characterised by an IQ test score at least 2 standard deviations below the mean (this often equates to an IQ score of 70). Following an assessment, children and parents will have a better understanding of how an intellectual disability impacts the child's ability to learn.
It will also provide information to develop effective plans or accommodations in the classroom that are tailored to meet a child’s specific needs. Results can also assist in making applications to access government or school disability funding, special needs teachers or special provisions (eg scribe) in formal school examinations.
Cognitive assessments for children require the administration of standardised psychometric tools by experienced and accredited psychologists.
These tools can assess various areas of cognitive capacity, including:
- Verbal Comprehension: the ability to use a range of vocabulary to understand and express general knowledge and explain concepts
- Visual Spatial: the ability to evaluate visual details and understand visual spatial relationships
- Fluid Reasoning: the ability to use conceptual information from visual details and apply that knowledge
- Working Memory: the ability to learn, manipulate and retain information to complete new tasks
- Processing Speed: the ability to quickly process and make judgements about visual information.
There are various cognitive assessment tools that are used for various purposes and age groups. We commonly use the following cognitive assessment tools:
- Wechsler Intelligence Scales for Children - Fifth Edition (WISC-V, Australian Standard) for children aged 6 to 16 years
- Stanford-Binet - Fifth Edition (Early SB5) for children aged 2 to 7 years
- Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence -Fourth Edition (WPPSI-IV, Australian Standard) for children aged 2 years and 6 months to 7 years and 7 months.