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

September 28, 2011, Public Library of Science

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.

Explore further: Effects of Asperger's syndrome noticeable in babies

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

Related Stories

Effects of Asperger's syndrome noticeable in babies

June 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, ...

Recommended for you

We can read each other's emotions from surprisingly tiny changes in facial color, study finds

March 19, 2018
Our faces broadcast our feelings in living color—even when we don't move a muscle.

Social media use at age 10 could reduce wellbeing of adolescent girls

March 19, 2018
Social media use may have different effects on wellbeing in adolescent boys and girls, according to research published in the open access journal BMC Public Health.

Study with infants suggests language not necessary for reasoning ability

March 16, 2018
A team of researchers from Spain, Hungary and Poland has found via a study with infants that language may not be a necessity for the ability to reason. In their paper published in the journal Science, the group describes ...

Hep C compounds alcoholism's effect on brain volume

March 16, 2018
(HealthDay)—Alcohol dependence has deleterious effects on frontal cortical volumes that are compounded by hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and drug dependence, according to a study published online March 14 in JAMA Psychiatry.

Study casts doubt on ketamine nasal sprays for depression

March 16, 2018
Researchers from the Black Dog Institute and UNSW Sydney have questioned the efficacy and safety of intranasal ketamine for depression, with their pilot trial stopped early due to poor side effects in patients.

Older adults' difficulties with focusing can be used to help put a face to a name

March 16, 2018
Everyone has experienced the awkward situation of meeting someone and then forgetting their name shortly after. Among older adults, this happens more often than not.


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

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

This is comforting....
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.