Autism Reality

Superior Non-Social Cognitive Abilities of Autistic Persons?

A recent Norwegian study has cast some doubt on the findings of earlier studies which had suggested that persons with Autism Spectrum Disorders possess superior non-social cognitive abilities – “earlier findings suggesting that individuals with autism spectrum disorders solve non-social cognitive tasks faster than typically developing control persons were not replicated.”


Autism, Vol. 11, No. 1, 81-92 (2007)
DOI: 10.1177/1362361307070988
© 2007 The National Autistic Society, SAGE Publications
Disembedding performance in children and adolescents with Asperger syndrome or high-functioning autism
Nils Kaland

Erik Lykke Mortensen

Lars Smith

Høgskolen i Lillehammer,Norway

The aim of the present study was to assess the findings, reported in earlier studies, that individuals with autism spectrum disorders process visuo-spatial tasks faster than typically developing control persons. The participants in the present study were children and adolescents with Asperger syndrome (AS) or high-functioning autism (HFA) (N = 13), and a matched group of typically developing children and adolescents (N = 13). The results showed that the participants in the clinical group performed marginally less well than those in the control group on both the Block Design Test and the Embedded Figures Test, but the differences were not statistically significant. Thus, earlier findings suggesting that individuals with autism spectrum disorders solve non-social cognitive tasks faster than typically developing control persons were not replicated. The results are discussed with special reference to the hypothesis of weak central coherence.

Key Words: Asperger syndrome • high-functioning autism • non-social cognitive tests • response times

May 5, 2007 Posted by | Asperger Syndrome, autism disorder, Erik Lykke Mortensen, high functioning autism, Lars Smith, Nils Kaland, non-social cognitive tasks | 5 Comments

Invisible Autistics

[Picture of 11 year old Conor Doherty, my buddy. Conor is a low functioning autistic person diagnosed with classic Autism Disorder, assessed as “severely autistic with profound developmental delays”]

The Mainstream Media loves to present feel good stories about autism. With 1 in 150 persons suffering with autism spectrum disorders the mainstream media invariable gravitates towards the higher end of the autism spectrum. Dr. Sanjay Gupta at CNN is a classic example with his interview of an autistic person who writes very sophisticated articles from a keyboard and is a prolific internet blogger. In the US April is autism Awareness month and the heartwarming stories and interviews with high functioning autistic persons will hit the media again.

Katie Couric and NBC’s Today Show will feature a charming intelligent and high functioning autistic teen. These are nice stories and they are stories that SHOULD be told. But where are the MSM interviews wih, or visits to meet, low functioning autistic persons? David Suzuki took a realistic look at some persons with more severe autism in a 1996 episode of CBC’s “The Nature of Things”. But that was Canada (the CBC) 11 years ago. In today’s ratings driven “entertainment as news” media world, there are unlikely this April to be any mainstream media visits to mental health facilities or residential care facilities where severely autistic youths and adults might be found; often living minimal custodial existences.

Stories about autistic persons with limited language skills, who engage in self injurious or aggressive behavior, or are sedated by medications, aren’t likely to make the Mainstream Media coverage of autism this April. Low functioning autistic persons living in custodial care are not the stuff of feel good stories. They will likely remain hidden away out of sight, unseen in our modern media society.

They are our invisible autistics.

April 1, 2007 Posted by | autism awareness month, autism disorder, CNN, Dr. Gupta, high functioning autism, Katie Couric, low functioning autism, NBC, Today Show | 7 Comments