Discrepancy between WISC-III and WISC-IV Cognitive Profile in Autism Spectrum: What Does It Reveal about Autistic Cognition?

PLoS One. 2015 Dec 16;10(12):e0144645. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0144645. eCollection 2015.


The cognitive profile and measured intellectual level vary according to assessment tools in children on the autism spectrum, much more so than in typically developing children. The recent inclusion of intellectual functioning in the diagnostic process for autism spectrum disorders leads to the crucial question on how to assess intelligence in autism, especially as some tests and subtests seem more sensitive to certain neurodevelopmental conditions. Our first aim was to examine the cognitive profile on the current version of the most widely used test, the Wechsler Intelligence Scales for Children (WISC-IV), for a homogenous subgroup of children on the autism spectrum, i.e. corresponding to DSM-IV diagnosis of "autism". The second aim was to compare cognitive profiles obtained on the third edition versus 4th edition of WISC, in order to verify whether the WISC-IV yields a more distinctive cognitive profile in autistic children. The third aim was to examine the impact of the WISC-IV on the cognitive profile of another subgroup, children with Asperger's Syndrome. 51 autistic, 15 Asperger and 42 typically developing children completed the WISC-IV and were individually matched to children who completed the WISC-III. Divergent WISC-IV profiles were observed despite no significant intelligence quotient difference between groups. Autistic children scored significantly higher on the Perceptual Reasoning Index than on the Verbal Comprehension Index, a discrepancy that nearly tripled in comparison to WISC-III results. Asperger children scored higher on the VCI than on other indexes, with the lowest score found on the Processing Speed Index. WISC-IV cognitive profiles were consistent with, but more pronounced than WISC-III profiles. Cognitive profiles are a valuable diagnostic tool for differential diagnosis, keeping in mind that children on the autism spectrum might be more sensitive to the choice of subtests used to assess intelligence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / psychology*
  • Autistic Disorder / diagnosis
  • Autistic Disorder / psychology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Child Development
  • Cognition*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intelligence Tests*
  • Male
  • Wechsler Scales

Grant support

ANM is funded by a graduate award from Fonds de recherche du Québec - Santé. IS is funded by a career award from Fonds de recherche du Québec - Santé. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.