The IQ test is the work of Dr. Alfred Binet who believed an underlying factor predicted a child's ability to perform well in school and later on in life. Today, many educators believe IQ tests to be of only moderate value because they do not measure factors like special talents in the arts or emotional maturity and also because a child's score may vary by five to 20 points on any given day. Schools continue to use IQ tests to see if a child is academically gifted and to identify developmental delays, so it is important to know how to explain IQ test results to parents.
Before the Test
Arrange a face-to-face meeting with the child's parents. Allow time for the parents to ask questions or express concerns.
Tell the parents why their child's IQ will be assessed. The most common reasons are to determine whether a child is gifted and to determine whether a child is developmentally delayed.
Inform the parents which test their child will take. Generally, children between the ages of 6 and 16 receive a Weschler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC). Children under the age of 6 typically receive the Weschler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence (WPPSI).
Provide a brief explanation of the test scoring. Tell parents that their child's score will be compared to the scores of other children the same age. According to Jonathan Rich, Ph.D., a California psychologist who maintains a Psychological Testing website, the average IQ is 100. A child with an IQ of 130 or above is considered gifted. A child with an IQ lower than 55 is considered mildly mentally retarded.
Encourage parents not to worry or put any emotional pressure on their child before the test. An IQ test is not the type of test you can study for, and it is not the type of test that is "passed" or "failed."
After the Test
Arrange a private meeting with the child's parents. Allow time for them to ask questions and express concerns.
Remind parents which test their child took, the scoring of the text, and what different scores imply.
Tell the parents how their child scored on the test. Again, assure the parents that an IQ test provides only a "rough measure of academic intelligence," according to the Edublox Reading and Learning Clinic Magazine. The score does not change who the child is and should not be used to define all of his abilities.
Explain any implications of the test score. For instance, a child who is developmentally disabled may be eligible for extra services at school and in the community. A gifted child might do better in a program where she would study with others with high IQ scores.
- Offer to allow the child to meet the tester before the day of the IQ test. This may help him feel less nervous.
- If parents are upset by a lower IQ score than they had expected, suggest retesting the child in a few months. Children's IQ scores can vary by five to 20 points on any given day.
- Check with the tester to see if any factors, such as illness or a fight with a best friend, might have affected the child's score.
- Do not give parents the impression that they should treat their child differently now that they know her IQ score.
- Warn parents away from companies that offer to help children achieve higher IQ scores. These programs don't help, and children often find them stressful.
- Do not embarrass a child by announcing his IQ or by comparing it with those of siblings or other family members.
Debra Stang is a licensed social worker and freelance writer. Her work has appeared on Suite101.com, Bella Online, the National Association for Social Workers website, and Open Travel Info. Her brochure for bereaved families, "What to Do When a Crisis Occurs" won a Missouri Hospital Association award.