The level and nature of autistic intelligence II: What about Asperger Syndrome?

Autism spectrum disorders, including Asperger syndrome, have generally been associated with uneven intellectual profiles and impairment, but according to a new study of Asperger individuals published in the online journal PLoS ONE, this may not be the case – as long as intelligence is evaluated by the right test. Both autistic and Asperger individuals display uneven profiles of performance in commonly used intelligence test batteries such as Wechsler scales, and their strongest performances are often considered evidence for deficits.

However, this study reports that Asperger individuals' scores are much higher when they are evaluated by a test called Raven's Progressive Matrices, which encompasses reasoning, novel problem-solving abilities, and high-level abstraction. By comparison, scores for non-Asperger individuals are much more consistent across different tests. Interestingly, Asperger participants' performance on Raven's Matrices was associated with their strongest peaks of performance on Wechsler.

A previous study by the same group found very similar results for autistic individuals as well, whose peaks of ability are perceptual, rather than verbal as in Asperger individuals. This suggests a common information processing mechanism applied to different aspects of information (verbal vs. perceptual).

According to co-author Michelle Dawson, "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. Here we have again found that measurable strengths in autistic spectrum individuals are not "isolated islets of abilities" as previously thought, but are in fact representative of autistics' intellectual abilities. This in turn raises questions about how we can provide autistics with the kinds of information they can process well, as we do with non-autistic individuals. We consider the effort to understand and encourage autistic strengths to be of paramount importance. "

Based on these results, the authors emphasize that autistic spectrum intelligence is atypical, but also genuine, general, and underestimated.

More information: Soulieres I, Dawson M, Gernsbacher MA, Mottron L (2011) The Level and Nature of Autistic Intelligence II: What about Asperger Syndrome? PLoS ONE 6(9): e25372. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0025372

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Study finds autistics better at problem-solving

Jun 16, 2009

Autistics are up to 40 percent faster at problem-solving than non-autistics, according to a new Université de Montréal and Harvard University study published in the journal Human Brain Mapping. As part of the ...

The matrix of autism

Aug 03, 2007

Autistic children are doubly stigmatized. On the one hand, they are often dismissed as “low functioning” or mentally retarded, especially if they have poor speaking skills as many do. Yet when autistics do show exceptional ...

Effects of Asperger's syndrome noticeable in babies

Jun 28, 2011

People with Asperger syndrome have problems with social interaction and attentiveness, and are also sensitive to noise and light. Several of these characteristics were evident to parents during their child's first two years, ...

New approach to detect autism earlier

Jan 24, 2008

A new way of understanding autistic disorders, incorporating both psychological and biological factors, could lead to the conditions being picked up earlier, research from UNSW has found.

Recommended for you

Brains transform remote threats into anxiety

Nov 21, 2014

Modern life can feel defined by low-level anxiety swirling through society. Continual reports about terrorism and war. A struggle to stay on top of family finances and hold onto jobs. An onslaught of news ...

Mental disorders due to permanent stress

Nov 21, 2014

Activated through permanent stress, immune cells will have a damaging effect on and cause changes to the brain. This may result in mental disorders. The effects of permanent stress on the immune system are studied by the ...

Could there be a bright side to depression?

Nov 21, 2014

(Medical Xpress)—A group of researchers studying the roots of depression has developed a test that leads them closer to the idea that depression may actually be an adaptation meant to help people cope with ...

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Isaacsname
not rated yet Sep 29, 2011
So I shouldn't feel insulted when people ask if I'm autistic ?

This is comforting....
frajo
5 / 5 (1) Sep 30, 2011
So I shouldn't feel insulted when people ask if I'm autistic ?

This is comforting....
Especially not when they ask you whether you are an "aspi". Not to be seen as NT actually is a pleasure.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.