The researchers gave both autistic and normal kids two of the most popular IQ tests used in schools-the WISC test that relies heavily on language and the Raven's Progressive Matrices, a pre-eminent test for the ability to infer rules, to set and manage goals, to do high-level abstractions.
Not a single autistic child scored in the "high intelligence" range of the WISC, yet fully a third did on the Raven's. Similarly, a third of the autistics had WISC scores in the mentally retarded range, whereas only one in 20 scored that low on the Raven's test. The normal kids had basically the same results on both tests.
The same results emerged when similar experiments were conducted on autistic and normal adults.
The scientists reported in the Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, that the new findings speak not only to the level of autistic intelligence, but also to the nature of autistic intelligence.
According to them, it might be true that autistics possess extraordinary perceptual skills, and that they use unique cognitive pathways for problem solving, but their intelligence clearly goes far beyond rote memory and perception to include complex reasoning ability.
Interestingly, Michelle Dawson, a scientific collaborator on this study, is herself an autistic.