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Retardation: the eyes have it.

Retardation: The eyes have it

A simple test of infant visual memory and intelligence shows promise as a tool to identify mentally retarded children by 7 months of age, according to psychologist Joseph F. Fagan of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

Mental retardation often is not diagnosed until a child reaches between 4 and 6 years of age. the new technique allows much earlier interventions with mentally retarded children, Fagan says. If it were used to screen a large national sample of infants considered "at risk" for later developmental problems, some of the causes of mental retardation might be illuminated, he adds.

Fagan's test of infant intelligence is based on prior observations that most babies took longer at new images than at familiar ones. The ability to remember and discriminate between images reflects fundamental abilities measured by IQ tests later in life, he maintains. The Fagan test first presents infants with one of a pair of images on slides, either faces or abstract patterns. Both images are then shown. Observers record the amount of time youngsters look at familiar and novel slides.

Several independent research teams have linked healthy infants' novelty preference on the Fagan test to higher IQ scores between ages 2 and 7. Fagan and his colleagues gave the test to 128 infants between 3 months and 7 months of age. The youngsters were suspected to be at risk for later mental retardation as a result of premature birth, slowed physical growth or other medical problems. Scores on the visual recognition test identified 101 of 104 infants who scored in the normal range on a standard IQ test at age 3. Of 24 infants predicted to be at risk for mental difficulties, half had IQs in the retarded range at age 3.

The test should not be used with infants in general, Fagan says, but only with those considered at risk.

Despite the impressive results so far, psychologist Robert B. McCall of the University of Pittsburgh notes the test incorrectly predicted mental retardation in half the cases reported by Fagan. Further work, McCall adds, should chart the youngsters' IQs during the school years.
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Title Annotation:IQ test for infants
Author:Bower, Bruce
Publication:Science News
Date:Aug 27, 1988
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