Saturday, April 2, 2011

Bright autistic kids 'misunderstood'


Some children with autism really can empathise with others, researchers
People with autism are more intelligent and able to function better
than previously believed, experts say.
But mistrust of doctors, biased tests and the internet have bred myths
about the condition.
At a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of
Science, researchers presented reports showing that even people with
autism who do not speak can have above-average intelligence.

They also offered additional studies disputing claims that vaccines can
cause autism.

"The current figures are that 75% of autistic people are mentally
retarded, with the mute the most ... impaired," says Canadian
researcher Dr Laurent Mottron, an autism researcher at Montreal's
Hτpital Riviθre-des-Prairies.

But Mottron believes the wrong intelligence tests are used to assess
autistic children.

Many are tested using the Wechsler scale, a common IQ test that
includes questions about words and concepts learned in school.
The Raven's Progressive Matrices test measures abstract reasoning and
consistently gives autistic children higher scores, Mottron says.
The average boost in score is 30 points, Mottron says, enough to put
someone previously considered mentally retarded into the normal range
and the average to gifted status.

Mottron was so impressed by the abilities of one autistic student,
Michelle Dawson, that he made her a co-author of some of his papers.

Autism is a term used to describe a broad range of symptoms, from an
inability to use language normally, to exhibiting deeply disturbed and
repetitive behaviours.
Professor Morton Gernsbacher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
questioned a common idea among autism researchers that autistic people
lack a 'theory of mind'. This, among other things, gives an ability to
empathise with others.

Again, she says, the wrong tests are used to assess this ability.

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