"Help, I'm Being Held Hostage to My IQ!"

July 27, 2017

(The following is a modification of an earlier post.)

Sometimes I think that we have the notion that all of us before being born lined up in heaven to receive our IQ scores.  You can almost imagine hearing the announcement from one of God’s helpers, “If you are about to be born step up so that God can stamp a number in your head.  You will carry this number around with you wherever you go on earth.  Line up everyone. Get your IQ scores!!!!”

Then as the line proceeds you would hear, “OK, let’s see, this one will get a 92- sorry that’s the lower portion of the average range, the 32nd percentile…no one will help you.  This one gets a 103 – well, maybe you’ll get help if you need it.  You might have enough points.  We’ll see how bad your reading is though.   Uh, oh, here comes a tough one.  Woops, sorry you get an 83 – that’s the 13th percentile.  Not likely to be much help for you.”

Fast forward to your time on earth.  You’re a child struggling in school.  You don’t read very well.  Homework is as painful as a toothache.  Your parents are irritable with you all the time.  In short, you need help.  Well, what happens if you have one of those unfortunate numbers stamped in your head?

Essentially this is what your parents are told – “We’re sorry, but state regulations are such that there has to be this very large discrepancy between the number that’s stamped in your child’s brain and the number we calculate to be the reading score. Otherwise, you’re just out of luck. Too bad.  Next case.”

In other words, a child is often held hostage to his/her IQ. 

I see kids like this all the time.  It’s very unfortunate and parents are simply given the wrong message.

Struggling is struggling no matter what label is given to it.  If a child is struggling in fundamental, core areas of reading, spelling and writing, he needs help and support, regardless of what mythical number he is carrying in his brain.

Takeaway Point

There is probably  no concept more misused in education than IQ.  The reason it is misused is the overemphasis on the overall score, the IQ.  Most people have a fair degree of variability in their intelligence test profile that explains strengths and weaknesses far beyond an overall number.  Understanding this variability is crucial.  If the school is not offering services to your struggling child, try to encourage the school to revisit their findings or find other ways to get support for your child

Adapted: “School Struggles,” (2012) Richard Selznick, Ph.D. Sentient Publications


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