Welcome to the February edition of Ask Dr. Emily!

We often receive questions that we want to share with all our readers. To help with this,  Dr. Emily Rastall, a clinical psychologist at Seattle Children’s Autism Center, will share insights in a question and answer format.

We welcome you to send us your questions and Dr. Rastall will do her best to answer them each month. Send your questions to theautismblog@seattlechildrens.org.

Q: My son, who is 7 years old with ASD level-1 and Adjustment Disorder with anxiety, was tested at school for his IQ and his scores in the different areas were pretty widely ranged. He scored very high in spatial reasoning and just below average on the areas that relied on communication, but he is constantly improving in his ability to communicate what he understands. I guess I’m wondering if it is common for those scores to change as he hones those communication skills.

A: Cognitive scores obtained at different time intervals before about 1st grade (when kids are around 7 years old) can be variable. After around age seven, cognitive scores become more stable, meaning that they become more predictive of performance later in life and vary less over time. Regarding speech ability, as communication skills improve, a child can become more “testable.” This means that scores (on a test that relies on verbal communication to demonstrate skill) might become increasingly reliable as a child’s speech improves.

The thing to remember is that your child’s performance on these tests will always be compared to a standardized set of scores obtained from other kids your child’s age. That is to say that your child’s speech is improving while the normative population’s speech skills are improving too. Thus, your child’s speech improvement may or may not translate into higher scores, when compared to the normative population of other kids their age. It’s a good idea to focus on your child’s own progress rather than his progress compared to others.