Eliminating the Vicious Circle of the traditional testing methods

Montreal Autism Centre

Early Assessment - The traditional testing methods

The tools available to the psychologist are psychological tests such as the Bayley Scales of Mental Development, the Griffiths Developmental Scales, the Stanford-Binet Test of Intelligence, and the Fagan Infant Test. The latter is particularly appropriate for infants under nine months of age, a time that precedes the onset of, let alone the identification of delayed speech. Nonetheless, the Fagan Infant Test measures mental facility directly in a less biased manner than conventional tests of early development.

The three former tests rely on measures of gross and fine motor ability, expressive language, and compliance with the requests of the examiner. The child receiving such an evaluation enters a "vicious circle".

The very problems that these children experience, neuromotor delays, expressive language delays, and behaviour problems are the ones that confound, or confuse the validity of the tests. Failure to comply with the examiner's requests to perform items on the test will result in a depressed score simply confirming that the child's development is delayed, a previously known fact.

Not only is little new or useful knowledge gained, but the child is placed at greater risk because his or her known motor and language delays are used to declare delayed intelligence. Moreover the "official" labelling by the professional, be it neurologist, pediatrician, or psychologist, carries considerable weight with the outside world of teachers, therapists, and other medical professionals, leading to lower expectations for the child's development.

In addition, the parents, unaware of the limitations of conventional tests of intelligence, are led to believe that their child is mentally retarded, not developmentally delayed. The official label of mental retardation, even though based on invalid tests, contributes to their own doubts and frustrations, and diminished hope.