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What is my child's IQ?
I.Q. scores as measured on cognitive tests, are important in assessing a child with autism. However, it is important not to assign too much significance to a score on a test. The problem for persons with autism is that they may have very good cognitive skills, but are unable to use them. In general, people with autism can be divided into three groups, by age 5 or 6 years. Approximately, 50% of people with autism are also mentally retarded both in verbal and non-verbal skills; another 25% have normal non-verbal intelligence but poor language skills, and another 25% have normal language and non-verbal skills. It is very difficult when a child is young to determine which of these three groups he/she will fall into.

Remember. What is important is not a person's I.Q. on a test but his or her ability to function independently in society. Assessment of social adaptive skills is much more important that intellectual functioning. I often tell parents it does not matter how smart a person is if they cannot get across the street. It does not matter if a person does calculus if they cannot make change.

If the goal is to help autistic persons be integrated into society, then it becomes crucial to focus on the development of social/adaptive rather than cognitive/academic skills.

Comparison between high-IQ autism and low-IQ autism
There are only a few studies that have systematically compared high-IQ autistic individuals with low-IQ autistic individuals. DeMyer, Barton, DeMyer, Norton, Allen and Steele (1973) reported a follow-up study of autism in which children were placed in subcategories of "high autism" (defined as having a mixture of non-communicative and communicative speech and some intellectual or perceptual-motor activity that was near chronological age in complexity), "middle autism" (defined as having little communicative speech beyond infrequent communicative words, but at least one intellectual or perceptual-motor activity that approximated age level), or "low autism" (defined as for middle autism, except that the intellectual and perceptual-motor performances were globally retarded.) The mean full-scale IQ of the high-autism group at initial evaluation was 61; the middle-autism group, 44; and the low-autism group, 30. At follow-up, the high-autism group showed an upward change of IQ scores, especially on Verbal IQ, whereas the middle-and low-autism groups tended to have an IQ (especially Performance IQ) change in the downward direction. The high-autism group had a greater reduction of autistic symptoms than that of the middle and low groups. More children from the high-autistic group (14%) functioned educationally like normal children at follow-up than children from the middle-autistic group (10%) and the low-autistic group (0%).

Bartak and Rutter (1976) found that significantly more of the mentally retarded (defined as having a non-verbal IQ below 70) autistic children had deviant social development, as well as deviant social responses as compared to the normally intelligent autistic children. The retarded group displayed more severe retardation in language development; more self-injurious behaviors and stereotyped hand and finger movements; greater difficulty with environmental changes; a higher rate of seizure disorders; and more individuals with a "poor" outcome. Bartak and Rutter (1976) suggested that "there may be differences in the origin of autism according to the presence or absence of mental retardation."

Freeman, Ritvo, Schroth, Tonick, Guthrie, and Wake (1981) studied the behavioral characteristics of high- and low-IQ (i.e., with Performance Iqs above and below 70, respectively) autistic children aged 30 to 60 months. In this study, the high-IQ autistic group was not compared directly with the low-IQ autistic group; the high-IQ was compared with the normal children. and the low-IQ autistic group was compared with the mentally retarded children. Nonetheless, the authors commented that "the present results also confirm the clinical observations of Bartak and Rutter, who reported that high-IQ and low-IQ autistic children tended to exhibit different behaviors."

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