Monday, May 3, 2010

Draw-A-Person Testing

Can the drawing of a stick figure by a child really let you see into their mind and their cognitive abilities? That's the claim of the Draw-A-Person test or DAP, originally called the Draw-A-Man test, that was developed by Florence Goodenough in 1926.

This test has been used for decades to to determine a child's intelligence and to determine if one has any emotional disorders. This test seems far reaching and just another excuse to put children into special classes for individuals with learning disabilities or even being used as just another way of trying to prove that a child has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

So how does this test work? A child is asked to draw three pictures: one of a man, one of a woman, and one of themselves. The child is given all the time they need to complete the pictures and are only given one instruction, the drawing needs to be of a person drawn head to toe. Once the child is finished, the administrator gets to work on "scoring" the pictures.

Using the Draw-A-Person Quantitative Scoring System or QSS, the administrator analyzes 14 different aspects of the drawing from the clothing, or lack there of, specific body parts, detail in the drawing and the overall proportion.

There are 64 scoring items in each drawing, a separate score is given for each drawing and then an overall score is given for all three. This draw a person test is thought to be a great tool to use because it doesn't involve language and breaks down any barrier that may come with it, can be used for children with communication difficulties, and does not involve a child's verbal skills.

Thought to be non bias, because the child does not communicate with the administrator, the results of these tests are often viewed as concrete evidence by parents that their children are cognitively underdeveloped, or far superior to their peers. How is it, though, that a person can tell how developed a child is by viewing their drawing? If one of these administrators were to have seen any of my childhood drawings, I'm sure they would say I had some form of a cognitive impairment because my hands were always larger than the body and my "hair-do's" never quite made my person look male or female.

Going even further, this test can also test to see if a child has an emotional disorder! Using the same picture just tested, the administrator turns to a different test called the Draw-A-Person: Screening Procedure of Emotional Disturbances or SPED. This test uses 55 dimensions to determine a child's emotional state. Only eight of the 55 criteria actually take into consideration the child's age and the appropriateness of their picture. The other 47 items are used for each drawing but what exactly their looking for, I have yet to find out.

I wonder if this Draw-A-Person: SPED test would have been able to tell from his childhood drawings that the artistic genius Vincent Van Gogh would some day cut off his own ear?

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