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IQ Testing Underestimates Autism Spectrum Intelligence

A new study finds that traditional intelligence testing may be underestimating the capabilities of individuals displaying an autism spectrum disorder.

Traditionally, autism spectrum disorders, including Asperger’s syndrome, have generally been associated with uneven intellectual profiles and impairment.

However, a new study of Asperger individuals published in the online journal PLoS ONE, suggests specialized testing are needed for this special population.

Researchers discovered Asperger’s 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’s 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 the traditional 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 observation suggests that individuals with autism spectrum disorders have a common information processing mechanism for 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.

Dawson said 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 to provide autistics with the kinds of information they can process well.

“We consider the effort to understand and encourage autistic strengths to be of paramount importance,” Dawson said.

The results suggest that although autistic spectrum intelligence is atypical, it is also genuine, general and underestimated.

Source: PLoS ONE

IQ Testing Underestimates Autism Spectrum Intelligence

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). IQ Testing Underestimates Autism Spectrum Intelligence. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 17, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2011/10/03/iq-testing-underestimates-asperger-autism-intelligence/29999.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.