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IQ Doesn’t Predict Academic Achievement

IQ and achievementIn a recent study, researchers found that the IQs of children with high functioning autism don’t predict their academic success. Am I being too cynical or could this have been published in the Journal of Duh ? (Add your own sarcastic tone here)

Anyone who has worked with, lived with or is personally diagnosed with an autism spectrum (and can critically analyze themselves) has known this for years. Test scores are usually NOT an adequate means of assessing a child with ASD”s abilities, let alone predicting them!

I would add, that it is not just IQ scores that don’t predict academic performance, but I have advocated for years that language test scores don’t predict language abilities either, especially in high functioning individuals.

I know from a purely bureaucratic perspective in order to provide services and funding as well as to conduct research we need to have inclusion and exclusion criteria with standardized measures. But, there is probably no more agitating a situation for me then trying to convince members of an IEP team that a child needs special services despite their test scores.

Just because a child scores at the 90th percentile on a vocabulary test, doesn’t mean he has an adequate vocabulary to engage in age appropriate conversations or academic assignments. Just because a child can tell you the emotions on a pictured face in a standardized test, doesn’t mean he is able to recognize emotions when they occur dynamically and quickly on the face of a real person in a real interaction. Just because a child can memorize a list of numbers or words, doesn’t mean he has a good memory and can remember to put his homework in his backpack or remember the instructions for his homework.

The list of what a child can do on a standardized test versus what they can do in real life can go on and on. The concept of ‘discrepancy’ is often associated with children diagnosed with Learning Disabilities (LD) because it is the discrepancy between their IQ and academic abilities that actually defines the label LD. But, the fact is that children on the spectrum have significant discrepancies in many different areas.

There is the familiar discrepancy between having a phenomenal attention for some things and almost no attention for other things. The discrepancy between having adequate language skills and yet poor conversational skills is classic. The discrepancy between having a significant knowledge about certain subjects, almost to the point of savant in some instances, and yet knowing nothing about social rules is often amazing.

The current research study indicated that in 90% of the children with ASD, their IQ scores did not predict their academic achievement with some children doing better than their IQ predicted and some doing worse. Maybe, despite my initial cynicism, this will be the lasting value of the research. Tests don’t predict one way or the other for children on the spectrum even though in the general population of neurotypical individuals, IQ is usually a good predictor of academic achievement. The authors go on to suggest, “Improved social abilities may contribute to academic achievement.”

In the late 1990’s Daniel Goleman, in his groundbreaking bestseller, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter more Than IQ addressed the importance of our social-emotional development and its impact on our ability to function in the world.

The amount of time it takes for research to sometimes catch up to what we already know is frightening. At the same time, there is a stunning amount of new research and discoveries every day. I guess it’s just another discrepancy – this time in the world of research.

To read the complete research article entitled, “Discrepancies Between Academic Achievement and Intellectual Ability in Higher-Functioning School-Aged children with Autism Spectrum Disorder” click on the November 2nd online issue of the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

[Photo by Mike Baird, available under a Creative Commons attribution non-commercial license]

IQ Doesn’t Predict Academic Achievement

Diane Yapko, MA

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APA Reference
Yapko, D. (2010). IQ Doesn’t Predict Academic Achievement. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 12, 2020, from


Last updated: 28 Nov 2010
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