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Autism and IQ

March 14, 2006

There’s a lot of talk about an autism epidemic these days. But what if autism isn’t a disease at all?


A different kind of brain. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

In the movie Rain Man, Dustin Hoffman’s character is an autistic genius. But, in reality, most autistic people are labeled mentally retarded. Now, a Canadian team has shown that the I-Q test usually used for autistic people may be underestimating their intelligence—by up to 30 percentile points for highly functioning autistics. Cognitive neuroscientist Laurent Mottron of the University of Montreal says this is a sign that autistic brains aren’t diseased—they’re just different.

LAURENT MOTTRON (University of Montreal):
So a difference that is not to be cured and that should not be relevant in determining the social status of a person.

In fact, he employs an autistic person in his lab…and says she readily makes connections that people with typical brains cannot.

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.