Updated on September 15, 2005

The Symbol Board Span Testing Project

One of the exciting implications of span theory is that span ability, which is closely related to intelligence, can be validly assessed by tests made for a specific individual, using stimuli and responses which are known to be highly available to them. This custom-created span test would be useful with individuals who can't take standard IQ tests. These include people with hearing impairments, moderate to severe mental retardation, non-English speakers, and stroke victims.

Some years ago I tested this idea with residents of a facility for people with mental retardation.

A short report of the project was presented at the Eleventh Annual Gatlinburg Conference on Research in Mental Retardation, 1978. It is available from the author.

Bachelder, Bruce L. (1978). Span theory: Laboratory and classroom applications. (Unpublished manuscript available from the author)


This is a three-part paper which illustrates the broad range of basic and applied research stimulated by span theory.

Part 3: Classroom applications.Several memory span tests have been developed to test the span abilities of non-verbal severely physically handicapped young adults who have generally been considered to be severely retarded. They respond by pointing or otherwise indicating response sequences on a symbol communication board. Their span scores ranged from about 1.7 to 5.4. 5.4 is about the mean for normal adults. The symbol board span scores of these subjects corresponded closely with objective assessment of their language comprehension, language production, and general classroom performance and learning.