As Sharon Begley of Newsweek recounts in the August 20 issue, researchers found that the second method showed that autistic children performed, on average, much better. Read the article, "The Puzzle of Hidden Ability," here.
The article picks up on a study published in the August 2007 journal Psychological Science, "The Level and Nature of Autistic Intelligence," by autism researchers in Montreal and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. See abstract for the study here. One of the researchers, Michelle Dawson of the Riviere-des-Prairies Hospital in Montreal, tells Newsweek that the traditional IQ test known as Wechsler that calls for talking to a stranger is unfair, comparing it to "giving a blind person an intelligence test that requires him to process visual information."
The different test, called Raven's Progressive Matrices test, yielded different results. Begley writes:
For the study, children took two IQ tests. In the more widely used Wechsler, they tried to arrange and complete pictures, do simple arithmetic, demonstrate vocabulary comprehension and answer questions such as what to do if you find a wallet on the street—almost all in response to a stranger's questions. In the Raven's Progressive Matrices test, they got brief instructions, then went off on their own to analyze three-by-three arrays of geometric designs, with one missing, and choose (from six or eight possibilities) the design that belonged in the empty place. The disparity in scores was striking. One autistic child's Wechsler result meant he was mentally retarded (an IQ below 70); his Raven's put him in the 94th percentile. Overall, the autistics (all had full-blown autism, not Asperger's) scored around the 30th percentile on the Wechsler, which corresponds to "low average" IQ. But they averaged in the 56th percentile on the Raven's. Not a single autistic child scored in the "high intelligence" range on the Wechsler; on the Raven's, one third did. Healthy [typically developing] children showed no such disparity.The article points out that the results of these tests often have an influence on what kind of expectations parents and educators place on a child and can have lifelong implications. And while the Wechsler test is widely used, the Raven's test could be a truer measure of intelligence, one that enables evaluators and parents alike to discover an intellectual abilities they weren't aware of previously.
Sidenote comment: Begley is an award-winning reporter, whose work I have read for a long time in the Wall Street Journal before she joined Newsweek. She's consistently terrific. But in this story, she allows a quote from an unnamed person who basically disparages parents of disabled kids everywhere -- and parents of autistic kids in particular -- as willing to trade a severe diagnosis for better special education services. Here's the passage:
If many autistics are more intelligent than an IQ test shows, why haven't their parents noticed? Partly because many parents welcome a low score, which brings their child more special services from schools and public agencies, says one scientist who has an autistic son (and who fears that being named would antagonize the close-knit autism community).I've read this canard before, but never with solid evidence to back it up. I'm disappointed that such a distinguished writer would stick this unfounded comment in there from a person who won't stand up and say who he is, and on what he bases this opinion. A scientist no less. Readers deserve better.