A question from a person with Aspergers

This message has been sent to researchers in the Aspergers/autism community. Comments below are welcome.

Since I was diagnosed with Aspergers 7 years ago, I have been troubled by what appears to be a simple question.

Many people seem to believe that intelligence naturally continues to increase indefinitely. However I can’t find proof this is correct.

I believe there is a natural limit to intelligence that results in Aspergers. I have high intelligence and I believe this is what caused Aspergers for me. I am aware not all highly intelligent people have Aspergers, but I do believe there is a natural limit to intelligence that will result in Aspergers eventually (causation, not correlation).

I also hear we don’t really understand intelligence and that IQ tests may not be accurate. If high intelligence does result in Aspergers, it would seem we should be investigating how intelligence and IQ work in great detail, especially with its relationship with Aspergers. The heritability of intelligence may be a major cause of Aspergers cases today which could be easily avoided.

Is this research happening? Because if it isn’t, this would indicate a major flaw in Aspergers research.

I have also sent this email to some of your colleagues, you are welcome to post comments either in your own name or anonymously as a guest.

http://yinyangtheory.com/blog/2017/10/31/a-question-from-a-person-with-aspergers/

If you have evidence that intelligence naturally increases indefinitely, I would love to see it.

Warm regards,

Adrian

P.S. I am aware there are multiple causes of Aspergers/autism. I am specifically focused on the high IQ variant.

12 Replies to “A question from a person with Aspergers”

  1. Unfortunately we rarely diagnosed high IQ Autism (Aspergers) in Africa. I may have little experience to contribute on this discuss. Thank you.

    1. Hi Dr Bakare, thanks a lot for responding. I hope we can talk further in future I am very interested in Autism in Africa. I find your work with Sickle Cell Anemia very inspiring.

  2. Adrian, although they may co-occur, high intelligence does not cause Asperger’s. They are both related to genetics. The measurement of intelligence has its weaknesses, but is most problematic with individuals who are not verbal. Intelligence tends to be fairly stable, but may increase or decrease if supports or barriers change. Much research is directed toward intelligence. You could search for studies on Google Scholar.
    Claudia Hilton, PhD, MBA, OTR/L, FAOTA
    Associate Professor
    University of Texas Medical Branch

    1. Hi Dr Hilton, thanks for responding, I will be looking at some of the studies in Google Scholar.

      Perhaps I am confused still, could you tell me the name of the condition that occurs once human intelligence reaches its limit?

      Adrian

  3. Adrian, there is no evidence that high intelligence causes Asperger’s or Autism in general. As a geneticist I believe that both intelligence and autism are caused principally by genetic information directing how the brain works. Of course, the brain can also be impacted by environmental insults. There is one area where there appears to be a relationship between autism and success taking IQ tests. Many, but not all individuals with autism have an ability to focus on one or more specific areas and learn a great deal. That intensity of interest may lead to great proficiency.
    We humans are extremely complicated and we are just beginning to understand some of the underpinnings of how we function.
    Judith Miles, MD, Ph.D
    Professor Emerita
    Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders
    University of Missouri Health Care

      1. Hi Adrian,

        I got your e-mail, and I’m afraid as a researcher, rather than someone who is clinically qualified, my understanding about Asperger’s and autism is very focused on a small part of knowledge about reward processing.

        I think it may be more helpful to think of intelligence as being very multi-dimensional. For example, being naturally gifted at maths doesn’t mean you’ll be good at learning languages. And even within a subject, there may be lots of different types of thinking, e.g. in French learning vocab is different to understanding grammar.

        Once you think of intelligence as multi-dimensional, the idea of it “reaching its limit” is very different.

        Sorry this doesn’t answer your question – but hopefully it addresses some of the thinking behind it.

        BW,

        Anthony Haffey, PhD,
        Researcher at the University of Reading

  4. Dear Adrian, there is a limit to the highest level we can measure intelligence and beyond that whether individual differences are meaningful is questionable. Intelligence and ASD both both have been linked to genetics, and while high IQ can co-occur with ASD it does not appear to be linked per se.

    Best wishes,
    Jessica Paynter

  5. Dear Adrian, there is no evidence for a causal relationship between ASD and intelligence. However, ASD is often associated (~30-50 %) with IQ impairment. It is likely that individuals with ASD and high IQ have more ressources to develop compensatory strategies that help them navigating the social world despite their ASD. Accordingly, studies have shown that positive outcome in ASD(i.e. the odds of leading an independent and fulfilled life) is more likely with higher IQ.

    best wishes
    Martin Schulte-Rüther

  6. Thanks for your question. I’m sorry that because it arrived at a busy
    time, it fell to the end of my queue for a while whilst I was processing
    tasks with deadlines.

    Keep in mind that ‘intelligence’ is a nebulously defined construct.
    One could assert, for instance, that intelligence is whatever an
    IQ test measures, but such an operational definition would miss
    out many capacities that colloquially are viewed as aspects or
    manifestations of intelligence. As you’ve oberved, ‘intelligence’
    isn’t at all fully understood– this limitation of understanding
    holds not only for taxonomy and developmental aetiology of intelligence
    but also for the very semantics of the term.

    Also keep in mind that two phenomena may seem correlated if they share
    defining elements. Such definitional relationships don’t imply that one
    of the defined constructs causes the other; rather, they imply that the
    terms of discourse may be expansive, ill-defined and overlapping.
    So as Professor Miles has observed in the comments section of your post,
    autism-spectrum traits such as the ability (indeed compulsion!) to
    focus attention and cognition narrowly on a single task can pose an
    advantage in many real-world tasks, and also in tasks typical of IQ
    tests.

    In particular, early experience influences intelligence, and early
    experience in persons with autism spectrum conditions are atypical.
    Persons with autism spectrum conditions tend to operate by a process
    of bricolage, focussing intensely on single perceptual characteristics
    or single tasks, then assembling these pieces brick by brick, as it
    were. (See ). This intense
    focus breeds expertise, which in turn develops higher intelligence,
    both in terms of IQ scores and in terms of the colloquial understandings
    of the term.

  7. Dear Adrian:

    Your questions are thought provoking as you can see from the wide variety of responses to your email. I, myself, focus on the sensory aspects of ASD and Asperger Syndrome which I see as quite different conditions with different dimensions of competency (despite the master diagnosticians at the DMS-5)!

    I became interested in sensory processing at the ripe old age of 16 when I lost my vision, which I mention because now at age 67 i have spend many decades studying sensory processing and generating interest widely in a Scientific Workgroup comprised of dozens of scholars to collaboratively study sensory processing as well. . . (not that it’s relevant but had transplants that restored my vision at ages 20 and 21).

    I truly believe if you follow your passion and learn how to . reliably and validly study your questions, that you could provide much needed answers yourself, that might lead the field in a new and exciting direction. For example, your statement, “The heritability of intelligence may be a major cause of Aspergers cases today which could be easily avoided” I find quite intriguing. What do you mean the heritability might cause Aspergers? How could it be avoided if it is inherited? Just answering this 1 question could take a lifetime!

    In my clinical and research experience, I find IQ to be heritable, but not always intelligence. IQ and intelligence are quite different constructs which you will understand better if you study them in your PhD program… which I urge you to undertake. I look forward to reading your peer-reviewed papers in the future, and understanding your research findings.

    Very best wishes,

    Lucy Jane Miller Ph.D., OTR
    PS for more info on sensory processing see my first book:
    Sensational Kids (Penguin, 2014)

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