Test to discover the real talents in those with Asperger syndrome

A new test may mean finally that those with Asperger syndrome can be tested fairly and correctly to find our where their skills and strength lie, just as those without an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are. Those with ASD by nature have an uneven profile of intelligence – those with Asperger’s develop speech early compared with those with autism, for example – and up till now, people on the autism spectrum have been tested using scales such as the Wechsler, and the results have displayed uneven profiles of performance, with strongest performances used as evidence for deficits.

However when tested using Raven’s Progressive Matrices (RPM), which encompasses reason, novel problem-solving abilities and high-level abstraction, the scores of those with both autism and Asperger’s are much higher. In comparison, scores for non-Asperger’s individuals are much more consistent across the different tests.

Thirty-two adults with Asperger syndrome showed higher performance results using the RPM compared with the Wechsler, relative to their typical controls. In 25 Asperger children, and RPM advantage was found over the Wechsler performance scores only.

Researchers who carried out the tests, from Centre d’Excellence en Troubles Envahissants du Developpement do University de Montreal (CETEDUM), Quebec, Canada, from the Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts Gen. Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Mass. US, and the Department of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, US, also looked at whether the cognitive mechanisms underlying Asperger’s and autism differ.

The researchers conclude that there is so little awareness of what autistics do well, and no real way until now of assessing their strengths fairly, that up till now their strengths have been assumed to be dysfunctional, or “isolated islets of ability” (Michelle Dawson, co-author). However, now it is understood that their measurable strengths are actually representative of autistics’ intellectual abilities. Autism spectrum intelligence is atypical, but also genuine, general and underestimated.

Source: PLoSone

First published September 2011

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