There is no known negative correlation between intelligence and the ability to learn. On the contrary, many children and adults with learning disorders are of average or above average intelligence.
Intelligence Quotient (IQ) is a single indicator of an individual’s intelligence, but it is only one of many that can be used. Furthermore, an individual’s IQ has little bearing on whether that individual can learn if an underlying neurological condition that interferes with the normal learning process exists. For example, a student with a learning disorder may have difficulty reading because of the way in which his or her brain processes information. Were that same individual to take an IQ test that has been modified to compensate for the disorder, he or she might very well perform admirably.
Much depends upon the individual student’s diagnosis when discussing the relationship of intelligence -- as measured by an IQ test -- and ability to learn. A 1989 article in the Journal of Learning Disabilities took issue with the notion that children with low IQ scores are prone to learning disorders. The article discussed research that concluded,
“…some children with low IQ scores can be good readers, indicating that low IQ scores do not necessarily result in poor reading. Empirical evidence was presented that poor readers at a variety of IQ levels show similar reading, spelling, language, and memory deficits. On logical and empirical grounds, IQ test scores are not necessary for the definition of learning disabilities.” [Linda S. Siegel, “IQ is Irrelevant to the Definition of Learning Disabilities,” Journal of Learning Disabilities, October 1989]
A learning disorder is a biological condition that interferes with an individual’s ability to learn. It is not a measure of intelligence. Learning disorders, in the words of Dr. Linda Silverman, “depress IQ scores” so that the children in question appear less intelligent than they actually are. Silverman studied “gifted” children, those with exceptional intelligence, but for whom difficulties with reading, writing, oral communication, or other disorders have been diagnosed and concluded that the disorder precludes, if undiagnosed and/or untreated, the child from learning, but not for lack of natural intelligence. [Linda Kreger Silverman, Ph.D., “Twice Exceptional Children,” Gifted Development Center]
A child with an exceptionally low IQ will be unlikely to excel academically. But IQ tests are not determinative of an individual’s ability to learn.