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A NEW THEORY-BASED APPROACH TO PROFILE INTERPRETATION been modified due to specific interventions or experiences. And if interventions have not been successful, then children who previously performed adequately on WISC-III measures of acquired knowledge may now display a weakness in these and related areas. Yet the authors have no way of assessing the amount or effectiveness of intervention for each individual child because of the haphazard way in which the cases were obtained from around the country.
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advances more than others. And there are other differences between 9- and 12-year-olds. For example, they differ in their problem-solving speed. Several WISC-III Performance subtests give bonus points for quick, perfect performance. At age 9, bonus points do not contribute very much to children s scores on Block Design, Picture Arrangement, and Object Assembly; at age 12, bonus points contribute heavily (Kaufman, 1994). Hence, the same subtests are quite different at older versus younger ages, conceivably affecting the level of the child s performance at two distinctly different points in time. In addition to trait instability, Watkins and Canivez did not consider the fact that because some abilities are amenable to change, interventions can and often do improve performance on some tests. Watkins and Canivez state, Psychologists often proffer interventions and remedial recommendations based on hypotheses about WISC-III subtest and subtest composite score information (p. 136). They are correct. Therefore, with respect to Watkins and Canivez s sample, it is entirely possible that interventions have already taken place during the three-year interval between test and retest not at all surprising in view of the fact that all retest data are for children enrolled in special education. Indeed, the authors note that, the use of reevaluation cases means that those students who were no longer enrolled in special education were not reevaluated and thus not part of the sample (p. 137). Intervention, whether based on Kaufman and Lichtenberger s method of profile interpretation or not, will have an impact on the child s cognitive functioning. Areas of strength or weakness may no longer be as extreme on a retest, three years later, if the interventions have been successful to some extent. Certainly, several WISC-III subtests might be directly affected by educational intervention (e.g., Information, Vocabulary), while others are conceivably affected by pharmaceutical intervention (e.g., Symbol Search, Digit Span). Not only have the children tested three years later changed in unknown ways, their cognitive ability and behavioral profiles have conceivably
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Watkins and Canivez (2004) are careful to point out that, The ipsative methods detailed by Kaufman and Lichtenberger (2000) were precisely followed to identify WISC-III subtest ability patterns (p. 134). They should have been just as conscientious in reading what Kaufman and Lichtenberger (2000) said about ipsative methods: The process of ipsative comparison is not intended to be the ending of profile interpretation; rather it is just the beginning point for practical, clinical analysis. From the ipsative comparison, hypotheses are generated and then may be supported or disconfirmed with further information (p. 3). But they apparently misunderstood or ignored that statement. Although Kaufman and Lichtenberger stated unambiguously that any application of their ipsative comparison method is for the purpose of generating hypotheses, to be supported or disconfirmed with additional data, Watkins and Canivez argued that the cross-validation approach is contradicted by the research literature (p. 137). They cavalierly dismissed the value of cross-validating test results with multiple sources of data by citing a few arti-
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cles that are tangential to the issue. In fact, their refusal even to consider the context in which test scores are obtained suggests that they are content to interpret test results in total isolation, disdaining the potential benefits of corroboration or refutation by real-life variables. That is their right, when they choose to define their own approach to test interpretation. But Watkins and Canivez s goal was to challenge the KaufmanLichtenberger interpretive approach; therefore, they needed to evaluate test data within the context of Kaufman and Lichtenberger s methodology, not their own methodology. And the Kaufman-Lichtenberger system clearly involves a merger of ipsative analyses with multiple-source cross-validation. Diagnostic decisions should not be made based on test scores alone nor should they be based on clinical judgment alone. Rather, diagnostic decisions should be based on test data, clinical observations during the testing session, background information on the child from interviews with parents and teachers as well as from other assessments, and referral questions geared specifically to the child being evaluated. No rational clinician would interpret low scores on the Wechsler subtests associated with the Freedom from Distractibility factor as reflecting a person s distractibility without also having observed the person s behaviors during the test session, in the classroom (or workplace), and perhaps in other environments as well. One would be foolish to infer that a person s relatively high scores on Picture Arrangement and Comprehension reflected well-developed Common Sense, Social Comprehension, or Social Judgment if the person was known to have difficulties getting along with peers; or to infer that relatively low scores on Similarities and Vocabulary reflected a weakness in Handling Abstract Verbal Concepts, Verbal Concept Formation, and Degree of Abstract Thinking if the person s spontaneous conversations during the evaluation indicated appropriate usage of abstract concepts; or to infer that relatively low scores on Coding and Block Design denoted a weakness in Visual Perception of Abstract Stimuli if the person performed well
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on a test of design copying; or that relatively high scores on Digit Span, Coding, and Symbol Search reflected a good Short-term Memory (Auditory or Visual) if the person kept asking for questions to be repeated and misplaced the pencil during the evaluation. The hypotheses quoted here are among the numerous Strengths and Weaknesses included in Watkins and Canivez s Table 1 and were rejected as unreliable because of trivial kappa statistics. Because we recognize that variation in cognitive abilities is commonplace in the general population (e.g., Kaufman, 1979; McGrew & Knopik, 1996), we make it clear in our writings that intraindividual differences alone are insufficient grounds upon which to base diagnostic, classification, or treatment decisions (Flanagan & Ortiz, 2001; Kaufman, 1994; Kaufman & Lichtenberger, 2002; see also Reschly & Grimes, 1995). When statistically significant intra-individual differences are found, a judgment with regard to their meaningfulness is made based on other sources of information. We believe that any outlier score or significant intra-individual difference only gains diagnostic meaning when it converges with other data sources in a manner suggested by existing research. For example, the fact that auditory processing emerged as a relative weakness for an individual (following ipsative analysis) is not meaningful in and of itself. However, the fact that the individual is in second grade and has not learned how to read and her score on an auditory processing composite (which consists of phonetic coding tests) is within the deficient range compared to same age peers provides the clinician with information to hypothesize that the observed auditory processing deficit is the presumptive cause of her inability to read. The clinician s hypothesis is strengthened by the results of numerous investigations that have shown that phonological processing is the core deficit in individuals with reading disabilities (see Flanagan, Ortiz, Alfonso, & Mascolo, 2002 for a review). After ruling out other potential causes for deficient reading and phonological processing, such as hearing impairment, history of ear infections,
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