Prevalence of Clinically and Empirically Defined Talents and Strengths in Autism. By Meilleur, A., Jelenie, P., & Mottron, L. (2015)

J Autism Dev Disord 45, 1354–1367 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-014-2296-2


Article Summary

The authors conducted two studies in order to investigate the following three research questions. First, what is the prevalence of outstanding abilities, as measured by special isolated skills (SIS) and perceptual peaks (PP), in Autistics. Second, any predisposing factors for each type of outstanding abilities. Third, any co-occurrence of outstanding abilities between SIS and PP modalities. The authors aimed to better understand the contributions of educational and expertise opportunities on talent and strength building versus innate talent and strength predispositions. 

For prevalence, in the first study, which consisted of 254 Autistics with various age (2-39 years) and FSIQ (40-130) range, it was found that 62.6% of their participants displayed SIS talent in one of the following areas: Memory, Visuospatial, Reading, drawing, music and computation. The top two SIS  talent areas were Memory at 52.5%, followed by visuospatial talent at 32%. In the second study, 43 Autistics were randomly selected from study 1. It was found that 57.5% of the subjects displayed strength in at least one perceptual performance task as measured by pitch discrimination and modified block design. 88.4% were found also to show any talent between SIS and/or PP compared to 13.2% in the 38 typically developing (TD) controls subjects.

For predisposing factors, the authors found higher intelligence (Raven progressive matrices(RPM)and  Weschsler’s GIQ) and older ages in study 1 between Autistics with SIS compared to Autistics without SIS. There was no sex differences between the two groups. Study 2 found that only Wechsler’s GIQ was associated with PP only in Autistics, while age, sex and RPM had not effect on either group. For Autistics in study 2, lower GIQ favored the presence of PP.

For co-occurrence of strengths between SIS  and PP, authors found that 83% of Autistics in study 2 that presented PP also presented at least one SIS in general. Their analysis on SIS and PP in similar talents, found that Autistics with SIS in music were not more likely to have a PP in pitch discrimination compared to Autistics with similar intelligence without SIS in music. Similarly,  for Autistics with SIS in visuospatial activities or drawings, they are not more likely to have PP in block design compared to Autistics with similar intelligence without SIS in visuospatial activities. The same was found between SIS in memory and PP in block design. The only exception found was that SIS in memory was associated with PP in pitch discrimination when intelligence was controlled for by Weschler’s GIQ.  The findings suggest that having strengths in one modality does not increase chances of having another talent in the same modality. 

The authors conclude by suggesting that SIS is correlated to age and intelligence and that experience is involved in the development of such strengths/talents, while PP (unrelated to SIS) strengths/talents seem to be more genetically defined. This research study also shows that Autistics present with more occurrences of SIS and/or PP over TD population. 

I would love to hear your thoughts after reading the summary of this research article.

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