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"Why Are My Child's IQ Scores Falling?"

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"Have you heard of a child's IQ dropping? This is happening to my son and I’m concerned about it.
Paul is 13 years old. He has a Central Auditory Processing Disorder and ADHD. He is also color blind, left- handed (but not red headed) :-)

"When he entered Kindergarten, his skills were about 6 months behind his peers. By second grade, he was about 1.5 year behind, by 4th grade he was 2.5 years behind. We had private tutoring which helped him gain skills and close the gap. He still has language problems, but after private tutoring, he is reading the 5th grade level.

"On the most recent evaluation, his Full Scale IQ had dropped by 9 points! On his report cards, he gets average grades and we are told that is doing 'just fine.' "

From Wrightslaw

IQ scores will often vary some from evaluation to evaluation. In most cases, IQ scores don’t change dramatically unless there has been an unusual event (injury, trauma, etc.) When we see falling IQ test scores, we ask the experts if this is due to the "Matthew Effects."

The "Matthew Effects" is a term coined by Keith Stanovich, a psychologist who has done extensive research on reading and language disabilities. The "Matthew Effect" refers to the idea that in reading, as in other areas of life, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

When children with disabilities do not receive appropriate services to remediate their reading skills, they read less – and learn less from reading - than children who are not disabled. Some subtests on intelligence tests measure information acquired by reading so poor readers will score lower on these subtests. Over years, the "gap" between poor readers and good readers grows.

The Matthew Effect was a key issue in James Brody's case.

James was found eligible for special education in 3rd grade. After three years of special education, he was re-tested. According to the new testing, his IQ dropped from 127 to 109. Two years later,when James was re-tested again, his IQ had dropped further.

The expert evaluators testified that James’ declining IQ test scores was an example of the Matthew Effects and was evidence that James was not receiving an appropriate special education. The Administrative Law Judge and the Review Officer agreed and found that the school district had not provided James with an appropriate education.

You can read the parents' letter requesting a due process hearing. Their letter is a good example of a "Letter to the Stranger."

When you read the Review Officer's decision in James' case, you will see that his decision included information from the parents' Letter to the Stranger.

Learn About Tests & Measurements

Parents must learn about tests and measurements. If you do not learn how to monitor your child's progress, you will not be able to represent your child's interests or participate in planning your child's special education.

In addition to our article about tests and measurements, we have created a Wrightslaw WebEx Training Program on CD-ROM, Understanding Your Child's Test Scores.

Learn About the Matthew Effect

What is the Matthew Effect? Frequently asked question about falling IQ scores as evidence of an inappropriate education; links to more articles and resources.

Learn about Language Problems

You will find several good books in the Advocate’s Bookstore that deal with childhood language problems:

Childhood Speech, Language, and Listening Problems : What Every Parent Should Know by Patricia McAleer Hamaguchi, John Wiley & Sons (1995)

Words Fail Me: How Language Works and What Happens When It Doesn'tby Priscilla Vail.

In "Words Fail Me,” Priscilla Vail explores the links between reading, writing, listening and speaking, how these skills are learned, and what happens in the process breaks down.

Straight Talk About Reading: How Parents Can Make a Difference During the Early Years by Susan Hall, Louisa Moats, and Reid Lyon.

"Best practices" in education, as in other fields, should not only be reasonable but mandatory."
"Children's needs shouldn't take a back seat to adult professional egos."

"Parents must know, understand and advocate for 'good instruction'. Teaches parents about reading research -- a 'reader friendly' way to get acquainted with proven research based methods of reading instruction." Read reviews of Straight Talk About Reading

For more books about language problems, check the Learn About Your Child's Disability and Learn About Effective Education sections.

Last revised: 04/29/14

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