There is a wonderful article in the October 7, 2013, Time Magazine called “What’s Right with the Autistic Mind,” by Temple Grandin. In it she makes the point that research and therapy have traditionally focused on understanding and compensating for cognitive problems in people with autism. But this emphasis on what’s wrong with the autistic brain has obscured a recognition of something just as important: what’s right with it.
A few years ago there was a Canadian study that showed the measure of autistic intelligence depended on what tests the subjects were given. When autistic children took a test that depended on information gained from social interactions, 1/3 of them qualified as “low functioning.” However, when the same autistic children took a test that depended on providing only nonverbal information, only 5% were labeled low-functioning. And remarkably, 1/3 qualified as having “high intelligence.” The researchers’ conclusion? “We conclude that intelligence has been underestimated in autistics.”
Dr. Grandin goes on in her article to acknowledge that autism is not something wonderful that should be celebrated. But she suggests that “if we can recognize, realistically and on a case-by-case basis, what an individual’s strengths are, we can better determine the future of the individual.” This is a growing concern now more than ever, as the rate of autism diagnoses reaches record levels.
You can read the article here.