The welcome message on the answering machine of this Parisian neuropsychologist announces the color: “The next availabilities for a check-up are in December. I invite you to contact me again in November.” We are then… at the end of July. The assessment proposed by the therapist? Tests to assess IQ, language, memory, attention, concentration (read the glossary at the end of the article). The result is the possibility of identifying HPI (high intellectual potential), diagnosing ADHD (hyperactivity), “dys” disorders (dyslexia, dyscalculia, etc.) or even ASD (autism spectrum disorder).
Clinical psychologist specializing in neuropsychology, Anaïs Delaunay rectifies from the outset: “We do not diagnose a HPI, it is not a disease but a mode of functioning different from the others. ADHD or dys are neurodevelopmental disorders. And to clarify: “I do not do the test for the test. If there are no difficulties in daily life, no suffering, I do not offer a balance sheet.” In her office in Chemillé-en-Anjou (Maine-et-Loire), the specialist has noted a real enthusiasm, especially around tests detecting ADHD and HPI, which she explains by better detection.
Psychotherapist, doctor of psychology and author of The factory of the gifted (Ed. Dunod), Juliette Pellissier also sees another cause: the evolution of psychology. “With the ebb of psychoanalysis, space has freed up. People are now in search of simplicity. And in an hour and a half, the duration of a test, they can have answers.” Pop culture has also helped popularize these acronyms. Many media are looking into the subject, books are flourishing on the tables of bookstores, the series HPI with Audrey Fleurot as a gifted investigator brings together millions of viewers on TF1, at the launch of its third season. Last May, more than eight million people were posted in front of their screen. On the OCS channel, aspergirl features Nicole Ferroni as a single mother, suffering, like her son, from an ASD. Here and there, we hear more and more parents talking about their “HPI” daughter or their “ADHD” son.
Permanently at odds with others
Just a fad? “Society puts families under permanent pressure, analyzes Juliette Pellissier. If a whole branch of psychologists maintains that with a few tests, we can decree positive things about their child, it is normal for them to rush into the breach. .” Sylvain, father of Roxanne, 16, diagnosed with ASD, recognizes this: “Hearing that your child is exceptional is a real breath of fresh air for some parents.” Except that in the case of this family, it was not about narcissism on the mode “my child is better than the others”. “We had to face real suffering, explains Michèle, the mother, and we found ourselves completely helpless”.
Roxanne’s difficulties began in childhood. As a child, the little girl already felt that something was wrong with her behavior. She spends more time with her teachers than with her classmates and always feels a little out of step with her classmates. For her, a demonstration of mathematics is “as beautiful as a painting by Botticelli”. She passes an IQ test which does not indicate any particular intellectual precocity. At the beginning of the third year, very violent anxiety attacks assailed him, which worsened when he entered high school.
A few months ago, the teenager asked her parents to test her. After consulting a neuropsychologist “who botched the session but not her bill”, squeaks her father, the family ends up finding the right doctor. The diagnosis falls: Roxanne suffers from an ASD. Three letters that slam, but allow the teenager to put words to his discomfort. Léa, too, was relieved. Detected last summer ADHD, the young woman of 25 years chained for years the phases of intense fatigue and hyperconcentration. “I understood that it was not lazy, she explains. I was able to tell myself that I was not crazy.” Thanks to the diagnosis, Roxanne, for her part, was able to adapt better, find benchmarks and solutions. “She thought for so long that she was off the mark that it feels good today to see her come back to life,” says her father.
Attract society’s attention
So, yes, of course, there are Temple merchants, ready to sell appraisals with a vengeance. Because the sector turns out to be lucrative: a neuropsychological assessment costs between 250 and 450 euros. Juliette Pellissier points to IQ tests published by “huge American companies” and presenting in her eyes many biases. “People are not equal when it comes to these assessments. Children educated in Montessori schools leave with an advantage, for example, because the games used in this pedagogy have similarities with IQ test events.” The result is flattering for the ego – that of the children and that of the parents.
“However, it is not the tests that are good, notes neuroscience researcher Franck Ramus (see box), but the diagnoses that are made from them”. And, of course, the solutions available to the people concerned. In her restitution session with the family, Anaïs Delaunay delivers recommendations to be implemented at home and at school. Roxanne and her parents, for their part, have found a listening neuropsychiatrist to accompany them. The young girl is also followed by a psychologist who even offered to come to her class at the start of the next school year to explain her disorder to her comrades. Léa has adapted her way of life and feels “legitimate to ask for rest”. Won’t a test risk labeling you for life? It all depends on the use that the entourage makes of the results, considers Juliette Pellissier.
“Being presented as ‘service ADHD’ can have a reductive dimension but if the diagnosis makes it possible to get out of a malaise, it’s very positive”, underlines the specialist. Léa has thus succeeded in making sense of things. She understood that her disorder was part of herself, but that it did not sum it up, and that she had to learn to live with it. “Thanks to the test, I can now say to others, ‘Hello, I’m a little different, I need a little more calm, time…'” she says. Father of a little girl diagnosed with ASD, Stanislas even sees in these assessments a way to change the way society looks. “As long as there is no definition laid down for these disorders, they often arouse stigmatization and rejection, says the one whose daughter suffered from the behavior of certain teachers and classmates. attention to the subject.”
In her entourage, Léa measured the distress that the absence of detection could cause. She speaks of “great suffering”. And remember that people with these types of difficulties have always existed but that they previously went unnoticed. “Society must make room for these people,” she insists. As for the criticisms and doubts aroused by these tests, the young woman sweeps them aside: “Why be afraid to help the other to be well?”
The meaning of the different acronyms
- HPI: high intellectual potential. A person is considered HPI when their intelligence quotient (IQ) is greater than 130.
- Dys disorders: also called specific language and learning disabilities (SLA). These include dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysorthographia…
- ADHD: attention deficit disorder with or without hyperactivity. It is part of dys disorders.
- ASD: autism spectrum disorder.