Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Most recent Atkins decision. Garcia v Thayer (Texas, 2009): Should more have been done to explore discrepant IQ scores?

Garcia v Thayer (Texas, 2009) has been added to the Atkins-related Court Decisions blog sidebar.   A copy of the decision can be found by clicking here.  In addition, a copy of an psychological report can be found by clicking here.  Thanks to Kevin Foley for the files.

This case is interesting, if for no other reason that I got the feeling that the Atkins claim seemed to be given short shrift by all sides.  Apparently the only person who believed Garcia is ID/MR was his lawyer.  Even the psychological expert said he did not meet the diagnostic criteria for ID/MR despite a recent WAIS-IV of 55.  However, school records reported (before the age of 18--the third prong of MR/ID) WISC-R FS IQs of 90 and 85.  The current examiner pointed out the large discrepancy and indicated that the school-age IQ scores ruled out MR/ID before the age of 18 (third prong of definition).  However, the expert did not attempt to explain the significant discrepancies in scores.  The recommendation was made for neurological testing to determine possible reasons for the apparent drop in cognitive abilities....which is probably a good recommendation.

Of course, other issues should have been explored such as possible scoring errors and malingering to name a few.  As discussed in recent articles re: the responsibility of psychologists conducting Atkins evaluations, they have a professional responsibility to address discrepancies in scores when present.  I think more should have been done to investigate the possible reasons for such dramatic changes in scores.  Does the score drop reflect a real decline in cognitive functioning (due to environmental/neurological factors)...or...was the decrease NOT real and due to other measurement issues (e.g, scoring, malingering, etc.).  Curious minds want to know.

Do readers believe that more effort should have been expended to evaluate the large discrepancy between the childhood and adult IQ scores...or...is the presence of IQ scores in the "normal" range prior to 18 an immediate disqualification for MR/ID?  Should Atkins claims be based on intellectual potential or current level of intellectual functioning?  Not easy questions to answer.

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