What Is The Relation Between Autism And Intelligence?




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Autism is often linked with intellectual disability, but surprisingly, the same disorder is associated with the spectrum of high intelligence. Compared to the general populace, autistic persons score in the gifted range of IQ – 140+.

Relation Between Autism And Intelligence

Autism is generally perceived as a sort of intellectual deficiency, but the same individuals display unexceptional talent when the buck stops as being intelligent. The average score of autistic people is well above the awe-inspiring benchmark of 140.

We have a related article for you, you can read What Is The Difference Between Acceptance And Awareness? 

This article will delve deep into the relationship between autism and intelligence. Let’s start!

What Is The Relation Between Autism And Intelligence? Disorder Of High Intelligence

Bernard J. Crespi declared autism a “disorder of high intelligence” back in 2016. The underlying reasons for this proposition were the streak of results he had extracted. He found out that there is a strong correlation between mental prowess and autism.

The research showed that persons carrying high genetic variants of autism score much better than the ones who do not carry autism genes. Neurotypicals, as well as autistic people, at least have average to above-average intelligence. This score is much better than the average population.

Real-life Indicators

Apart from research-based findings, multiple real-life indicators portend the potential of autistic persons as highly intelligent. The factors are as follows;

  • Bigger brains.
  • Unusual growth of the brain.
  • Sharp visual-spatial and enhanced sensory abilities.
  • Well-developed synaptic functions.
  • Enhanced attention-cum-focus.
  • Strategic decision making.
  • Occupational interest in natural and physical sciences as well as engineering.
  • Positive assortative mating.

Raven’s Matrices

Autistic people also score exceptionally in Raven’s Matrices. Raven Matrices is a classical intelligence test that compares visual patterns with analytical skills.

A study by Isabelle Soulières et al. from 2009 depicts the following new but upbeat information from Raven’s Standard Progressive Matrices (RSPM):

  • Autistic people are 40% faster than non-autistic people for general tasks.
  • Autistic people are 23% faster than non-autistic people for figural tasks.
  • Autistic people are 42% faster than non-autistic people for analytical items.

Similarly, another bunch of researchers, Michelle Dawson et al., received the following results from their study.

For an intelligence test based on RSPM, crafted for children aged between 6-16, autistic people scored on average 30% and, in some cases, above 70%.

Genetic Autism Trait

It’s also fun that not all autistic people have an intellectual disability. Intellectual disability only accounts for 70%. These autistic persons are also well-preserved and non-verbal intelligence is a bit too high among these.

Autism is essentially a developmental disability that causes speech and language hindrances. But, the higher ratio of non-verbal intelligence emerges as a blessing in disguise. It enables people to solve complicated riddle-like problems.

Genetic Autism Trait

These visually-focused hands-on reasoning skills require no use of language.

To corroborate this virtue, a group of researchers from the universities of Queensland and Edinburgh surveyed 10,000 people from the selected population of Scotland. Their DNA and cognitive abilities were tested on different patterns.

Also, make sure to check out my post on How Can Autism Affect An Individual’s Physical Development?

The team found that even some people never developed autism but had a genetic trait of the disorder.

These people scored slightly better on all tests related to cognitive skills than the general population. The research finds out;

“Polygenic risk for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is always associated with cognitive abilities in the general public.”

The very nature of autistic intelligence subtly impacts brain function, only affecting the intellectual part.

Intelligence Advantage

Another researcher Dr. Toni-Kim Clarke from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, pointed out other evidence that links autism-associated genes with intelligence. He tested around 900 adolescents who were part of the Brisbane Twin Study.

The results again corroborated the improved cognitive functions and autism. These links are implied as ‘Silicon Valley Syndrome.’

Moreover, these links are dominant in popular literature, such as in the movie ‘Rain Man.’ The study suggested that the genes had conferred a slight intelligence advantage affected by autism.

Intelligence Traits Runs Throughout Autistic Geniuses

A joint study of OSU and Yale University studied seven child prodigies (three of them having autism). Interestingly, researchers found awe-inspiring parallels between autism and intelligence.

Further study found that these atypical progression in different brain regions are responsible for developing intelligence.

The researchers theorize that autism is the baseline for imbalanced but enhanced intelligence components. Considering this, the autism-high connection is the leading cause of intelligence amok.

This imbalance may extend ripples of cognitive challenges but tip towards being a genius.

Another post that will interest you is about the Best 16 Autism Movies.


Different scientific studies have proved that autistic people possess higher intelligence than ordinary people. The average IQ score of people with autism is 140+ – exceptionally well. This is why different researchers dub autism a ‘Disorder of High Intelligence.

Similarly, real-life indicators also portend the possibility of high IQ among the autistic population. Furthermore, Raven’s Matrices corroborate the results.

All in all, without any second thought, autism is associated with an intelligence advantage. Finally, a study by Yale University confirms that intelligence traits run throughout autistic geniuses.

These traits may bring in intellectual ripples but tip the balance towards high intelligence in general.

The philosophical point of this study is that autism is not wrong at all. It has certain hidden benefits that collectively lead to immense potential.

These positive energies can perch people with autism on the zenith of popularity, making them the leader in their respective fields.

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