New Study Finds IQ Tests Underestimate Autism Intelligence

A new study published at finds that traditional IQ testing likely underestimates the intelligence of individuals on the autism spectrum. The common perception that autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are characterized by uneven intellectual profiles and concomitant impairment can now be ascribed to the bias of the test itself.

Researchers administered the standard Wechsler IQ test and another test called Raven’s Progressive Matrices which addresses reasoning, novel problem-solving skills and high-level abstraction. Two groups took the tests, an Asperger’s and a neurotypical group. While scores for the neurotypical group were about the same regardless of the test, the individuals with autism scored much higher on the Raven’s Progressive Matrices. 

Researchers found these further results:

“Interestingly, Asperger participants’ performance on Raven’s Matrices was associated with their strongest peaks of performance on the traditional Wechsler Intelligence test… 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.”

The conclusion reached is that pockets of abilities attributed to ASD people are actually indicators of their general intelligence, the true norm, rather than an aberration.

This study affirms what most parents of children with autism already know — schools favor the neurotypical child, and children with autism often aren’t seen clearly by educators. Hopefully, new tests will be made to fairly assess autism IQ and new educational modalities will be created to deliver information to our children in a way that honors their unique processing style. 

The paradigm shift is a refreshing focus upon the strengths of ASD children rather than their weaknesses and the acknowledgment that while atypical, autism intelligence is also “genuine, general and underestimated."

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