Many children with autism are more capable academically than their IQ scores would suggest, researchers say, a finding that could have implications for the school supports they receive.

IQ is generally considered a reliable measure of academic ability, at least among typically developing children. But in a study looking at IQ as compared to achievement test scores in reading, spelling and math among 9-year-olds with autism, researchers report in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders this month that the same cannot be said for students who have high functioning autism.

“What we found was astounding: 27 out of the 30 children — that’s 90 percent — had discrepancies between their IQ score and scores on at least one of the academic achievement tests,” said Annette Estes, a research assistant professor at the University of Washington’s Autism Center and one of the study authors. “Some scored higher and some scored lower than what their IQ score would predict.”

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The discrepancies were especially profound in spelling and word reading, the researchers report.

Estes says that future study will concentrate on whether or not these trends hold true in the classroom.

“We need to know if children with autism spectrum disorders who have these higher-than-expected scores are able to demonstrate their abilities in the classroom in terms of grades and other measures of success,” Estes said. “This could influence placement in classes that adequately challenge them.”

At the same time, she says, further understanding will ensure that lower performing students get the support they need.

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