30 Days of Autism: Autism and Intelligence

There’s a popular concept of an “autistic savant”, or an autistic person with astonishing skill in one area despite deficits in other areas. The fictional movie Rain Man is the prototype for this example – simultaneously gifted with a supreme memory and calculation skills but fearful of much and rigid in his routines. The truth is most autistic people do not have Savant Syndrome,  although about half of savants are autistic.  (The other half have other developmental disabilities.)

On the other hand, clinicians initially believed autism to primarily be found in people with low intelligence scores (IQ < 70). Now we know that autistic people fall all along the intelligence spectrum. About half of people diagnosed with autism scored in the low range, which is a decrease from historic rates. The change is most likely due to better diagnosis of autistic people with average and above average IQ scores.

In autistic people particularly, IQ is not a good predictor of future independence or academic success.  Many autistic people perform well on standardized tests but struggle in other areas. Conversely many other autistic people struggle to demonstrate knowledge in traditional testing environments. Supports and accommodation can tremendously help, both with testing and with life, regardless of IQ. 

Please come back tomorrow when I’ll be writing about autism and functioning labels.

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