Autistic Children Are More Intelligent Than IQ Tests Show

Traditional tests may be insufficient to gage their mental capabilities

By on October 3rd, 2011 14:06 GMT

A team of investigators recently determined that standard intelligence tests (IQ assessments) are not well suited enough to gage the mental capabilities of individuals who are suffering from an autism spectrum disorder. The study was carried out on people suffering from Asperger syndrome.

A standardized approach to analyzing people suffering from ASD is at this point to consider them of uneven intellectual profiles and impairment. According to the new study, this view is limited, and does not reflect the current realities researchers are seeing.

As such, it may become necessary to develop new ways of analyzing precisely what a person displaying ASD symptoms can or cannot do. Details of the research appear in a recent online issue of the peer-reviewed scientific journal PLoS ONE.

One of the main conclusions the new investigation arrived at is that a new batch of tests is required specifically for these individuals. This is especially true for those who suffer from Asperger syndrome, which is a special type of autism.

When moving away from traditional IQ tests, this subpopulation fares a lot better cognitively, the research team learned. When taking factors such as reasoning, novel problem-solving abilities, and high-level abstraction into account, those diagnosed with the syndrome fared a lot better.

Experts analyzed the participants in their newest test with the Raven’s Progressive Matrices, an alternative to the traditional Wechsler test used most often. The Asperger patients fared a lot better on this more complex test than they did on the easier ones.

Interestingly enough, the team also determined that people who did not suffer from this syndrome tended to have relatively consistent results in terms of IQ across a wide variety of intelligence tests.

In past studies, researchers noticed similar performances in autism patients, with the marked difference that these individuals excel in perceptual abilities, while Asperger sufferers are best at verbal abilities.

“While we know autistics process information atypically, very little thought has gone into how to fairly assess their abilities. In fact, there is so little understanding of what autistics do well that their strong abilities are often regarded as dysfunctional,” study co-author Michelle Dawson explains.

What the new study indicates is that people with ASD may share a mechanism that processes either verbal or perceptual information in the same way. If that is confirmed, then it would represent a monumental discovery in this field.

“We consider the effort to understand and encourage autistic strengths to be of paramount importance,” Dawson concludes, quoted by PsychCentral.

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Standard IQ tests may underestimate the cognitive abilities of individuals with autism spectrum disorders
   Standard IQ tests may underestimate the cognitive abilities of individuals with autism spectrum disorders
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