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