New, exciting, finding about people with autism.

People with autism are up to 40% faster at problem solving than people who do not have autism states an information release from researchers at the University of Montreal.

Autism, and related conditions known as autism spectrum disorder, have become increasingly common in recent years, perhaps because awareness of the problem is increasing and diagnostic techniques are getting better.

Autism affects communication skills and social interaction. Traditionally people with autism are assumed to have below average intelligence, but Dr. Mottron and his colleagues from the University of Montreal and Harvard University state that this is because of the type of tests that had been used. He found that people with autism score badly on tests that require verbal instructions. Most of the traditional assessment tests used to measure intelligence rely on verbal instructions to some degree.

However, when the researchers used a test that is relatively independent of language, (incidentally this is a test I use when diagnosing a child’s learning issues), people with autism scored much higher. In one case, a person who everyone thought of as being mentally retarded, actually scored at the 94th percentile on this non-verbal test. (That means that out of 100 people he could perform better than 93 of them!).

Using a brain scanner the researchers discovered that, as the problems became more difficult, the part of the brain involved with visual processing became increasingly active in people with autism.

Even when the people with autism did not score higher than those without autism they were able to finish the task much more quickly.

He suggested that people with autism depend much more on visual processing than verbal processing to help them learn, and that it is unfortunate that the normal way to help these children learn is to break up information into smaller and smaller pieces so that they can process it. His work suggests that autistics can process information as well as, or in some cases better than, a regular person as long as it is present visually.

This is wonderful news for parents of autistic children, it provides them with a way they can help their children learn. This research also points out some of the problems with traditional assessment processes and the damage they may cause.

I will be looking at assessment processes in my next blog posts, trying to point out the benefits and problems with each kind.

Meanwhile, when you interact with anyone with an autistic spectrum disorder- keep it visual!

Patricia Porter

Dr. Patricia Porter is a Learning Skill Assessment Specialist & Speaker. Discover your Child’s Learning Needs to Unlock their Full Potential.

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