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Hidden Smarts: Abstract thought trumps IQ scores in autism

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10:05am, July 3, 2007

There's more to the intelligence of autistic people than meets the IQ. Unlike most individuals, children and adults diagnosed as autistic often score much higher on a challenging, nonverbal test of abstract reasoning than they do on a standard IQ test, say psychologist Laurent Mottron of H´pital Rivière-des-Prairies in Montreal and his colleagues.

The same autistic individuals who score near or below the IQ cutoff for "low functioning" or "mental retardation" achieve average or even superior scores on a test that taps a person's ability to infer rules and to think abstractly about geometric patterns, Mottron's team reports in the August Psychological Science.

"Intelligence has been underestimated in autistics," Mottron says. Autistic people solve problems and deploy neural resources in unusual ways, which are poorly understood and might contribute to problems with IQ tests, he asserts.

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