“Patience. Patience. Patience. Work to view my autism as a different ability rather than a disability. Look past what you may see as limitations and see the gifts autism has given me. It may be true that I’m not good at eye contact or conversation, but have you noticed that I don’t lie, cheat at games, tattle on my classmates or pass judgment on other people? Also true that I probably won’t be the next Michael Jordan. But with my attention to fine detail and capacity for extraordinary focus, I might be the next Einstein. Or Mozart. Or Van Gogh.”
– Ellen Notbohm, author of Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew
Recently, there has been talk of the advantages of autism as research sheds light on the assets of this debated disability. Many autistic rights movements have sprung up over the years, stating that autism is not a disability but a different approach in thought.
In the past, research has emphasized on their incapabilities. These days, they are discovering that past research has been biased and unfair. The accounts that most of the autistic population are suffering from mental retardation are proven to be based on data from intelligence tests which “overestimate autism”.
A psychiatrist at the University of Montreal, Laurent Mottron, thinks that autism “is perhaps just a different way of looking at the world that should be celebrated rather than viewed as pathology.”
Intelligence tests, like the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC), seem to highlight the abilities that autistic kids lack the most. For example, the WISC is a timed verbal test that constantly references on social knowledge. These types of tests will prove to be difficult as autistic kids are impaired in communication and social comprehension and are easily distracted by sensory input.
However, there are other intelligence tests that can fairly evaluate an autistic child, such as Raven’s Progressive Matrices and the Test of Nonverbal Intelligence (TONI). They asses the child’s ability to complete designs and patterns through nonverbal instructions.
Isabelle Soulieres, a researcher at Harvard University, has discovered a 30% leap when a group of autistic kids write the Raven’s test as opposed to WISC. Some kids were able to jump up by 70%. This includes the entire spectrum as both high and low-functioning autistic kids were able to score in the average percentile.
Getting down to the bigger picture, WISC is widely used among school. As a result, autistic kids are branded as slow and unable to learn when the fact is that they only learn in a different way. We are starting to realize that their potential lie in pattern recognition, logical reasoning and picking out irregularities in data or arguments.
“It doesn’t mean that it’s easy for them in everyday life, or that it’s easy for their parents or teachers, but it shows that they have this reasoning potential, and maybe we have to start teaching them differently and stop making the assumption that they won’t learn.”
– Isabelle Soulieres
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