Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Intelligence Quotient Quotient

Yesterday was Diminutive One's weekly therapist appointment. We took a bit of a break over the summer, which was nice, but it was good to be back in her cheerfully serene waiting room once again. Though getting there and back during rush hour is an exercise in insanity, I have come to look upon that hour as a welcome respite from life's chaos and calamity.

They have good magazines there. Current ones. InStyle, Redbook, Entertainment Weekly, Time, Newsweek. Each month I work my way through the new editions, reveling in the indulgence of being completely inert for a full hour. There are no distractions to prick my conscience and prod me into productivity. There are no children demanding my time or attention. I can't multitask or network or interface.

So I sip my coffee or soft drink, settle into the commodious sofa and read to my heart's content.

To be quite honest, I usually start with the girly mags. They are a pleasure I don't often afford myself. But this week, an article in Newsweek caught my attention. I have a close friend whose six year old son is Autistic, so when I saw the article titled "The Puzzle of Hidden Ability" by Sharon Begley, I was intrigued. The article discusses the enigmatic issue of IQ and intelligence in autistic children, and challenges conventional testing protocols.

These protocols commonly require the test subject to engage with another individual. Since difficulty with social interaction is one of the more pronounced characteristics of Autism, one researcher asserts that it is like "giving a blind person a test that requires him to process visual information."

In a recent study, Austic children were given two tests to assess intelligence. One, the more commonly administered Wechsler test, requires the test subject to perform a variety of skills, reasoning and verbal comprehension exercises, almost exclusively in response to questions posed by the administrator of the test, who in many cases is a stranger, thereby compounding the problem. On the second test, the Raven's Progressive Matrices test, they were given brief instructions and then went on to perform a series of tasks on their own.

The disparity in test results was amazing. On the Wechsler test, the average score was in the 30th percentile, which is considered "low average" intelligence. On the RPM, the average score was in the 56th percentile. On the Wechsler scale, none of the test subjects scored in the "high intelligence" range, while on the RPM scale, fully a third of them were classified as such.

One child, who was classified as mentally retarded using the Wechlser scale, scored in the 94th percentile on the RPM scale.

Think about that.

That means that thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands of autistic children since the advent of the autism spectrum disorder classification, have been treated and taught (or not taught, as the case may be) as if they were mentally deficient, when in fact, many of them have harbored a keen intelligence buried deeply inside the labyrinth of their puzzling and complex brains.

Countless sparks of genuine potential were never fanned into the flames of realization.

That is simply astounding. And deeply disheartening.

What's interesting is that the Wechler test measures "crystallized intelligence"; what one has already learned, while the RPM measures "fluid intelligence"; the ability to reason, solve problems, process information, and focus.

Does it surprise any of you that the RPM test is a more accurate indicator of intelligence? It doesn't surprise me. But what does surprise me, is that it's taken so long for someone to question conventional test methods and indicators of intelligence.

Throughout history there have been countless individuals who, despite not being considered intelligent by traditional descriptors or perceptions, have accomplished amazing things that have changed the course of human history. Why? Because intelligence is so very hard to quantify, classify and explain.

It was an eye opening article, and if you get the chance, you should read it.

As I read, I experienced a rising excitement that I didn't really understand. But the very last sentence made the hair stand up on the back of my neck, and brought everything into focus with such clarity that I actually felt tears spring to my eyes.

"It makes you wonder how many other children, whose intellectual potential we're too blind to see, we've also given up on."

Many of you know how my Diminutive One (who is not autistic, but does have ADHD) struggles terribly in school, despite the fact that he is incredibly smart, fantastically creative, and hungry to learn. And this...this seems like the beginnings of an answer for him and kids like him.

Are academics and educators finally figuring out that a one size fits all approach to learning is alienating and defeating a huge percentage of children? Are they finally figuring out that children who are not equipped to learn within in the narrowly confined and defined classroom setting...are simply giving up and falling through the cracks?

Could it really be?

Time will tell if those responsible for educating our nation's children will heed the advice of clinicians and researchers, but I choose to be hopeful.

I went on to read some lighter fare, but I couldn't stop thinking about the article. When Dr. A and Diminutive One emerged, she, always perceptive, asked me what was wrong. Wordlessly, I handed her the article and pointed to the quote at the bottom.

She beamed her shiny faced smile over Diminutive One's head but said nothing. She didn't have to. She knows that hope is what keeps me going, and that it can sometimes be in very short supply. She knows that I take it where I can find it.

Yesterday it was a single sentence in a magazine article. Today, it might be uncharacteristic enthusiasm about a school project. Maybe tomorrow it will be the reality of substantial and far reaching education reform.

I sure hope someone in Washington reads Newsweek.


  • At 7:12 AM, Blogger Avalon said…

    BA~~~ Not surprise there, but I can't wait to read the article.

    I have ADD. Not diagnosed by an MD, because, as an adult, no MD would even entertain the thought. But, back as an almost 30 year old,it became crystal clear after countless testing sessions at my college.

    As a kid, I always did better with "different" learning. Kinesthetics, singular memorization, and oddly enough, an open classroom. When I was in a formalized classroom setting, I struggled mightily.

    Using "conventional" parameters to gauge unconventional learners is a lesson in futility.

  • At 8:40 AM, Blogger Namito said…

    I'll definitely look into that article.

    And if you get a chance, check out John Holt. Eccentric as he was in some ways, as an educator he had some things to say that may resonate with you as they did with me.

    Sometimes I think the only way we can "fix" our educational system is to just start all over and invent one that we would love first, then figure out how to make it happen. Trying to fix a system that is broken in so many ways seems to me like an exercise in futility.

  • At 8:57 AM, Blogger Ms. Skywalker said…

    I, too, hope that someone in Washington reads Newsweek.

    But most importantly for you and yours, you do.

    And you matter the most to them--it's really you that can make the differences, just by being so aware and thoughtful.

    Sending you hope and wishes for something good to keep you going.
    Cause we all have days where we need that.

  • At 9:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Sounds like a very interesting article.

    I agree with Rock the Cradle about our education system. My husband is a teacher. The status quo just isn't working.

    I hate to admit it, but I probably wouldn't have even caught that article because the girly magazines are like crack to me.

    Jane, Pinks & Blues Girls

  • At 10:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Definitely no surprise there.

    I, too, have a friend with an autistic son and it awful to see how he treated by people who don't know him.

    My son was born with a cleft palate and although he has had his surgery now and is healthy and happy and speeding along developmentally, I have yet to see how much it will affect his speech. I am very grateful that here in Australia all his speech therapy is provided for, but I worry that before he begins to sound "normal" he will have to experience what I have seen other misunderstood children experience.

    Intelligence is a word we use to describe so many different things and we still have a long way to go in understanding it, let alone quantifying it.

    Sometimes our schools systems, our medical professionals, and our scientists seem to forget that they don't have all the answers.

    Which is not very intelligent.

  • At 11:37 AM, Blogger Liv said…

    Sounds like an interesting article. I think I'll leave the reading to everyone else since I've been busy living the life for so long. My son got retested in speech to track his progress, and he still comes up "average," although he is brilliant beyond belief. It is in articulation that he is marked average. I think these tests leave a lot to be desired, and outcomes are really skewed. No child with an ASD is alike, and I think that makes them somewhat harder to classify and teach---well, certainly more expensive! Montessori has worked wonders in our world, and I am grateful to a remarkable speech therapist.

  • At 11:50 AM, Blogger painted maypole said…

    Great post. They have been studying for years about how children learn differently, etc, but unfortunately it is not translating with any speed and efficiency into the classroom. Hopefully it will, and SOON!

  • At 2:29 PM, Blogger Sarah said…

    As someone who administered countless Wechsler scales when I was in graduate school, I am standing up and applauding you (and the writer of the article).

    The examiner has much too much to do with the outcome of the Wechsler.

  • At 2:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Sadly, I think many kids fall through the cracks. I was worried that it would happen to my oldest who has ADHD, OCD, Tourette's and CAPD. She didn't test as learning disabled so she couldn't get assistance from the public school. She is a very smart and creative child but needs special accomodations to help her be successful in school. We put her in a private school where the class sizes are small, the teaching is individualized and she could get one on one time with a resource teacher. She is thriving in school although it's a struggle at times. We are fortunate to be able to afford her school but I still worry about those who are failing despite their intelligence because of a lack of understanding in our community.

    I will have to check out that article. There is so much about how our children are tested and taught that I would love to see change.

  • At 4:41 PM, Blogger Terri said…

    "Are academics and educators finally figuring out that a one size fits all approach to learning is alienating and defeating a huge percentage of children? Are they finally figuring out that children who are not equipped to learn within in the narrowly confined and defined classroom setting...are simply giving up and falling through the cracks?"

    This is a question I've been asking since my oldest was in kindergarten. Sadly, I was inclined to think one size fits all until my daughter struggled through her first few weeks of school.

    It's true. Educators do seem to be just now figuring this out and it seems sad that it has taken so long for the those most involved with our children's education to just be discovering this. As a former teacher and a mother who teaches her children, I am convinced that children are falling through the cracks when they don't have to be.

    My oldest daughter is proof of that. She is very smart and creative but she does not learn in the traditional way. I think that's why I'm hesitant to turn her back over to a teacher who has a classroom full of other students of varying abilities to deal with not because the teacher wouldn't do a good job, but because the current educational environment with all of the emphases on testing and scores and achievements, etc. creates an environment of stress for many children.

    I so agree with Rock the Cradle. I have thought many times that we need to come up with a radically new approach to educating unconventional learners. Yeah, maybe I'll work on that. I'm convinced everyone can learn in the right environment. As someone who's taught everything from elementary to high school off and on for the past fifteen years this topic is of much interest to me.

    Presently though I'm trying to everything I can to give my two daughters the best educational advantage they can get. For now, that means me teaching them because no one knows how they learn best as well as I do. I think they'll be in school again at some point, but I do hope to see some changes in the classroom/testing environment before that day comes.

    Sorry this is long, but your post very much resonated with me. Overhauling our present educational system is one of the issues I do occasionally rant about.

  • At 5:49 PM, Blogger Unknown said…

    Not a surprise to me, but then I have a degree in test and measurement and I know every single flaw of the WISC, including the brand new one which is more flawed than ever. Weschler created an intelligence test for AVERAGE people. It does not accurately score over 130, and over 145 it is completely nonfunctional. He said so himself (you can find the quote over at

    Schools use the WISC because that's the test most school psychologists have been trained to use. Which is why I would NEVER recommend having a child testing in a school setting. School psychologists are VERY limited as to what they can use for testing, and how to interpret the tests.

    Outside testing is also tricky. You need to find someone who has an understanding of twice exceptional kids, who knows about LDs and giftedness, in order to find out just what is going on with kids that are differently abled.

    My daughter, in school testing, comes out a slight bit above average, but not gifted. In private testing her score is moderately gifted, a 30+ point increase. My son, who was just tested at school last year as part of his iep with the new (BLECH) Wisc4, tested a full 85 points lower than he did in private testing with the SB-LM.

    You can learn a LOT about testing on the hoagies site. It's very comprehensive.

    My advice to ANY child that is different is to go outside and find a decent tester that gives a complete workup.

  • At 8:39 PM, Blogger Kevin Charnas said…

    oh my, so disturbing. and that quote...THAT QUOTE! ugh.

    i'm glad that it's at least being addressed in a main stream publication. hopefully, it will pick up momentum and this HUGE issue will get more notice. I think that the key word, which you mentioned that you cling to is "hope". So, "hopefully"...

  • At 10:03 PM, Blogger OhTheJoys said…

    "It makes you wonder how many other children, whose intellectual potential we're too blind to see, we've also given up on."

    You. will never give up.



  • At 1:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This is the only reason I would consider home schooling (even though we don't). It infuriates me that some abilities and ways of learning are considered "right," and others are "wrong." We grade children on how well they fit into the somewhat arbitrary categories that are considered important by "mainstream" education.

    I hope you don't mind, I featured this brilliant post at Mommy Blog Round up. Let me know if you'd rather I take it down.

  • At 8:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I am so glad liv mentioned Montessori - it is SO much more geared to each child's abilities and learning pace/style, since the classroom is really child-driven, with teachers guiding rather than dictating, as is done in most public schools, and even private schools.

  • At 11:31 PM, Blogger Kathryn in NZ said…

    I have 15 yr nephew and 5yr neighbour with Aspbergers - both very bright. Both are only doing as ok as they are due to the love, effort, and educational intervention of their mothers.
    Mainstream will be with us for a lot longer, but acceptance of alternatives is growing.
    Hang in there you abfab mom!


Post a Comment

<< Home