According to a new study, just two factors assessed in childhood predict how well people with autism will function as adults, and these are: intelligence quotient (IQ) and behavioral problems such as hyperactivity.
But let’s start from the beginning.
What does it mean QI?
An intelligence quotient (IQ) is a total score derived from a set of standardized tests designed to assess human intelligence. The abbreviation “IQ” was coined by the psychologist William Stern for the German term Intelligenzquotient, his term for a scoring method for intelligence tests.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) was once considered to be highly associated with intellectual disability and to show a characteristic IQ profile, with strengths in performance over verbal abilities and a distinctive pattern of ‘peaks’ and ‘troughs’ at the subtest level.
However, this is a tricky topic because researchers don’t all use the same test to measure intelligence, for one thing, and even when they do, IQ thresholds often vary among studies. The assumption underlying the use of high IQ as a synonym for high functioning is also suspect because social and communicative abilities may have a far greater impact on an individual’s daily interactions.
The new study
Few days ago, I was reading some news about autism, as I am usually do, and I read this new interesting study, by Catherine Lord, distinguished professor of psychiatry and education at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Lord and her colleagues compiled data on 123 people with autism. The team first assessed the participants during childhood, many before the age of 3, and assessed them again when they were 22 to 27 years old.
“It’s an important study because there aren’t many that have followed up [on] people over this length of time,” says Patricia Howlin, professor emeritus of clinical child psychology at King’s College London in the United Kingdom, who was not involved in the work.
The researchers evaluated the participants on a wide range of factors, including the severity of their autism traits, IQ and the presence of behavioral problems. They also analyzed them in adulthood on their quality of life, such as whether they lived independently, held a job and had friends.
If you have a lot of mental health problems, even if your IQ is high, your chances of being independent are dramatically reduced. On the other hand, people that may not have as much cognitive ability but are functioning fairly well in terms of mental health can do better than you might think.
How important is an early help?
The study highlights the importance of giving children with autism support and education that is best suited for their individual needs. Everyday ‘adaptive’ skills, such as getting dressed, following rules and knowing when to go to the doctor, are also crucial for independent living.
Research has shown that early intervention can improve a child’s overall development. Children who receive autism-appropriate education and support at key developmental stages are more likely to gain essential social skills and react better in society.