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Possibility of High Functioning Autism

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D


Q: I recently had my child who is four IQ tested. Originally they thought he had a form of autism we were ask to take him to a doctor who did test for that and IQ etc. To our surprise the doctor said he scored 136, and he's four. I'm not sure what all that means I just don't see how my child could have scored that high. For a child that's Four what does that mean? Did the doctor score him wrong? We just don't see how he's that smart we don't see it. Thanks.

A: There is too little information to make any kind of suggestion here but I will try to advise based on the high IQ. I am not an expert on autism but from what I understand, when we talk about the autism spectrum, you may see terms such as ‘low functioning’ and ‘high functioning’ being used ever so often. Commonly, ‘high functioning’ autism is less of an issue for day-to-day functioning. Therefore, ‘high functioning’ autistics require very much less support, less treatment, and naturally fewer educational interventions compared to the ‘low functioning’ ones. ‘High functioning’ autism can also be referred to Asperger Syndrome; a neurobiological disorder that describes a pattern of children with usually normal intelligence and language development, but who also exhibit autistic-like behaviors and marked deficiencies in social and communication skills. Children with this syndrome are usually diagnosed after age 3, with most diagnosed between the ages of 5 and 9.

However, it has been noted that even though people with Asperger syndrome often have difficulty socially; many have above-average intelligence. As adults, they may excel in fields such as computer programming and science. Hence, in this case there is no delay in their cognitive development, ability to take care of themselves, or curiosity about their environment. It is possible that your son may fall into this category if he is diagnosed as being autistic.

Firstly, you need to know if he is indeed autistic. If so, does he display any signs of having advanced abilities compared to his peers? Does he show above average intelligence based on the things he does? From your description, you appear not to believe that he has any “smartness” that is above average. The test score by a qualified doctor is usually quite accurate given the objectivity of standardized tests. Secondly, you need to get the doctor to interpret the results and explain his strengths and weaknesses. If required, get the doctor to recommend further testing to enable you to cater for his educational and functional needs.

Perhaps, he may not be autistic at all! However, it is very important that you get professional advice on this matter and a second opinion on his condition. The fact that he was recommended a test for autism may be due to a reasonable suspicion of someone qualified. Please do not take this matter lightly to enable the soonest possible intervention. All the best!


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