Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Book recommendation: Mental Retardation--Determining Eligibility for SS Benefits

I recommend the book Mental Retardation:  Determining Eligibility for Social Security Benefits) to professionals engaged in Atkins MR death penalty related assessments and decisions, especially since it is relevant to the Vidal (2007) California Supreme Court decision (prior post) where the court and experts grappled with the use of the Wechsler Verbal IQ (and not Full Scale IQ) in estimating Vidal's general intelligence.  The topic of part vs total scores from IQ tests is discussed in detail, and there was some dissent within the committee that produced the book.

It is not a widely known book given its narrow focus (determining mental retardation for social security benefits).  I recommend it as a starting point for a number of intelligence test issues in Atkins cases as the book is the result of a two year process comissioned by the National Academy Press/National Research Council.  The Committee on Disability Determination for Mental Retardation consisted of 16 experts from various disciplines.  The issues and recommendations for MR assessment and eligibility determination for SS eligibility, which are not much different from the three-prong criteria used when deciding Atkins cases, are based on a national expert panel.  Although determining MR eligibility for social security benefits is a much less serious decision than determining MR for Atkins capital punishment cases, the eligibility issues discussed are nearly identical.

The book covers the topics of policy context, the role of intellectual and adaptive behavior assessment, the relationship between intelligence and adaptive behavior, differential diagnosis, and the panels recommendations.

Again...I mention this book primarily because it is a good starting point for reflecting on the Vidal (2007) court decision that hinged on the use of a Verbal IQ score (and not the Full Scale IQ score) in the  determination of Vidal as qualifying as  MR (part vs total score discussion in the text).

When time permits I will likely summarize the key issues and recommendations from the book as they related to the part vs total IQ score issue.  It is a complicated issue.

Conflict of interest notes
  • As mentioned in the acknowledgements section of  the book, I was one of a number of  individuals who provided feedback on earlier drafts of the manuscript.
  • Also, it is interesting to note, that Dr. Keith Widaman, a leading scholar in intelligence, adaptive behavior, and developmental disabilities research, was a member of the panel and was one of the expert witnesses in the Vidal court decision.  I have the highest professional regard for Dr. Widaman's expertise and credentials.  He is one of the top research methodologists in psychology and a leading scholar in intelligence, adaptive behavior and mental retardation.  I regularly see and chat with Dr. Widaman at the annual ISIR conference.  Furthermore, Dr. Widaman and I coauthored a chapter on adaptive behavior (The Structure of Adaptive Behavior;  Widaman & McGrew, 1996) published in the 1996 Americian Psychological Association (APA) Manual of Diagnosis and Professional Practice in Mental Retardation.  Reflecting his scholarly integrity, Dr. Widaman's reported expert testimony in the Vidal case is 100% consistent with his minority dissenting opinion (in the MR-SS related book) regarding the issue of part vs total IQ scores for diagnosing mental retardation.

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