Pondering I.Q. Testing For Kids With ASDs


It is time to re-evaluate the testing procedure so that it is fair to students with autism. Standardized tests are designed for neuro-typical students.

I am the Credit Course Coordinator at New York Institute of Technology’s (NYIT) Vocational Independence Program. This position allows me the opportunity to assess students as they enter our program. My job entails the establishment and coordination of academic accommodations, as well as coordinating with academic departments and learning centers. Initially, I conduct placement exams, coordinate advisement, curriculum, and act as the liaison to NYIT proper for our students that are appropriate to take credit-bearing classes and are more academically  capable. We have a vocational concentration as well as an academic concentration. As a team, we evaluate the proper concentration for each respective student based on their file and an interview. The standard I.Q. test has weighed heavily in our decision about placement as well as a review of their file.

I was inspired to write this particular narrative because of a young woman who came to me who has subsequently graduated. She knocked on my door and expressed that she had a desire to go to Old Westbury-NYIT proper and take credit-bearing classes. I had read her file and interviewed her and immediately had serious doubts because of her stated I.Q. of 61. I questioned how a young woman with a 61 I.Q. test result could possibly handle taking credit classes. My personal protocol states that I take each student seriously and guide them through the assessment process. She had to read an excerpt from a challenging piece of literature and then answer questions about style and meaning. Subsequently, she had to write a two-page essay relating to the main characters and theme.

Much to my surprise, she completed a thorough and comprehensive response to this challenge. Her writing was well-developed, organized, coherent and professionally formatted. She completed this assessment, in my view, across the hall from my office. She had no help at all. This is what made me reconsider the accuracy of the standardized I.Q. test for students on the autistic spectrum. I thought it can’t be; it makes no sense. New research shows that the I.Q. scores of students on the autistic spectrum may not be accurate reflections of their innate intellectual potential. While in the past, many psychologists believed that the vast majority of students with autism had below normal intelligence – recent scientific studies have questioned it.

What had not been measured with my student were her internal motivation and her ability to utilize the executive functioning that she seemed to have mastered. As an advocate, I am concerned because schools use the I.Q. score to place students. Often, students with below average or mentally deficient I.Q. scores are placed in classes with low achievement expectations.

After observing and assessing this particular student, I knew a great injustice was being done in holding her back. She fought for herself because she knew she could do it. After years of being told how “disabled” she was, and what her I.Q. was, and how that would subsequently affect her, she decided that she was not going to take no for an answer, and she advocated for herself any way she could. And, she did. I call her my “miracle student”. And, I truly believe she is. I also believe there are plenty of students who do not have the same self- image, but definitely have the capacity. A student can be diagnosed with and treated for autism without having a traditional I.Q. test. Schools should make decisions about classroom placement using more than just a student’s I.Q. test results.

My “miracle” student went off to a well-respected and renowned college, New York Institute of Technology, to take credit-bearing classes. Her average was a B+. By the time she graduated from our three-year certificate program, she had accumulated over 32 credits with a 3.3 average. Her mother continually thanked me for “giving her a chance.” She stated that no one else would ever give her a chance because of her I.Q. score. This is a profound inequity. The
idea that we are holding students on the autistic spectrum back because of an I.Q. score that does not accurately portray the ability of an individual is setting the stage for a dangerous precedent where students will be unable to reach their potential. Recent findings, however, suggest that typical intelligence tests, based on information collected from typical students, simply do not apply to students with autism. Students with autism are not typical. As a result,
most of the time, students on the spectrum received inappropriate I.Q. tests that may have even been administered improperly.

If I had decided my student’s future based on the I.Q. score in her file, she never would have been given the opportunity to succeed academically. These I.Q. tests do not tap the true cognitive basics and cognition ability of many students on the autistic spectrum, but rather tell us more about their communication difficulties.

Students with autism spectrum disorders are impacted by sensory processing challenges, and this as well can affect test results. The bottom line is that any standardized I.Q. test does not properly or accurately test the capabilities of a student with a neurological disorder. It does not test their executive functioning, internal motivation or abilities. It is time to re-evaluate the testing procedure so that it is fair to students with autism. Standardized tests are designed for
neuro-typical students. Students on the spectrum are not typical, and it is time to level the playing field. Students on the autistic spectrum have the right to utilize the office of accommodations in any college. They are able to have extended time, a note taker, and a quiet place for testing. The fact that there are no similar accommodations made during an I.Q, test seems unfair and archaic.•

Mary Jane Burner is the Credit Course Coordinator at the New York Institute of Technology’s Vocational  Independence Program. She is an academic counselor and a full-time English, Literature and Executive Functioning instructor. Her specific responsibilities include support for students in choosing their respective academic map, coordination with academic departments, learning centers, and the office of accommodations. In addition, she administers placement exams and mid-semester evaluations. Another aspect of her job is to have regular contact with parents regarding placement, tutoring and support. Mary Jane Burner has worked in this post-secondary transitional program for 14 years.

Hertog, Allison. “Making School Work, P.L.” Making School Work” PL. 22 Dec. 2012. Web. 13 Apr. 2015. <http://makingschoolwork.com/>. Jo Rudy, Lisa. “Best Intelligence for an Autistic Child.” About Health – “Real Kids, Smart Choices, Growing Up.” 5 Mar. 2015. Web. 7 Apr. 2015. <http://www.abouthealth.com/>.Intelligence for an Autistic Child.” Sicile-Kira, Chantal. “What I.Q. Tests Really Tell Us About Children with Autism.” Conditions. 19 Mar. 2011. Web. 5 Apr. 2015. https://www.psychologytoday.com/conditions



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