Monday, April 25, 2011

High Intelligence Is Not a "Common Characteristic" of a Child with Autism

An article by Jennifer Luchesi Long at Carlsbad Patch makes the following statement about children with autism:

The following are some of the common characteristics of a child with autism:

Easy irritability with changes in routine and expectations.
Difficulty reading facial expressions.
Difficulty reading social cues and understanding social norms.
Poor eye contact.
Uncomfortable with affection, including any kind of physical touches.
Overstimulated by noises, smells and light.
Fixation on a certain subject, topic or idea.
Highly intelligent.

(Underlining added for emphasis)

No references are provided for the author's assertion that high intelligence is a common characteristic of children with autism. The claim that high intelligence is a "common characteristic" of autism is a misrepresentation of autism disorders which include Asperger's Disorder, PDD-NOS and Autistic Disorder.

Some persons with Asperger's Disorder are highly intelligent, others with Asperger's are of average intelligence.  By diagnostic definition there is no cognitive impairment in persons with Asperger's. There are also some persons with high functioning autism who are highly intelligent.

With respect to Autistic Disorder and  PDD-NOS the Canadian Psychological Association stated in a 2006 brief to a Canadian Senate committee that 80% of persons with these two autism spectrum disorders have intellectual disabilities.  That information is consistent with United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surveys which indicate that between 41 and 44% of persons on the entire spectrum have intellectual disabilities. These figures contradict the claim that high intelligence is a common characteristic of children with autism.

"Autism" has become, in the public mind, the autism of a few very high functioning persons with Asperger's and high functioning autism some of whom are prominent in the mainstream media.  The realities of those with severe autistic disorders are  increasingly obscured by these success stories. There are many low functioning autistic persons living in dependent care who do not have movies made about them, do not play in rock bands and run successful businesses, do not have families of their own and do not build careers as public speakers telling the public  what "autism" is. Some autistic children and adults do not understand the risks posed by daily life phenomenon such as automobile traffic or backyard swimming pools.

The romanticization of autism  impairs public understanding of this serious neurological disorder.


Mommie that Gets It said...

Well said! Go for you for bringing out the realities of autism we live with everyday.

Autism Mom said...

Seems contradictory that the definers of a disability which has such a wide spectrum continue to perpetuate sweeping generalizations.