An IQ test usually makes parents of children with autism a little uneasy at best. For some it is downright painful to consider. Our children have impaired communication and language abilities, the very things that are tested on standard IQ tests. So most kids on the autism spectrum score on the very low end.
BUT this is not a true reflection of their intelligence.
More and more non-verbal, seemingly severely autistic children are emerging on social media and in the news – with a profound message. Not only are they intellectually intact, some are quite brilliant. They are just “stuck” inside an uncooperative body. Check out Carly Feischmann at www.carlysvoice.com and Ido at www.idoinautismland.com.
My 12 year-old son with autism was recently tested by our school district using the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-V), which fortunately has a “visual spatial” category.
And guess what?
As expected he scored in the very, very low range for 4 out of 5 categories (those that test verbal and auditory skills). BUT, here is the exciting thing…
He scored in the 99.9th percentile in visual spatial! And that number includes all children tested (typical and otherwise).
I just learned my son with autism is a visual super genius.
I immediately began researching educational programs/methods for highly visual-spatial learners. I learned about a new term called Twice Exceptional (or 2e) – which describes a child that is gifted, but with learning challenges.
I discovered amazing resources that cater to this population. Dr. Cheri Florance, Ph.D. wrote “Maverick Mind: A Mother’s Story of Solving the Mystery of Her Unreachable, Unteachable, Silent Son” (Penguin, 2004). She is now helping me utilize my son’s visual-spatial genius to retrain his weak verbal and auditory brain pathways.
Understanding your child’s learning strengths is the key to finding the appropriate resources and educational approach. As cliché as it is, finding the key will unlock your child’s true intelligence.
You can begin by exploring what type of learner your child is. These are four learning channels:
Each of these channels represents one aspect of sensory input. A child with autism is presumed to have an “underconnected” brain, the different brain areas are not integrated or linked (see M.A. Just et al, “Functional and anatomical cortical underconnectivity in autism…” Cerebral Cortex, 13 June 2006: 951-961).
In other words, these sensory parts of the brain are working in isolation and one system can override and antagonize the others, making language and communication a very difficult task. All of these systems have to work in concert for language and communication to progress appropriately.
There are an abundance of resources both online and through educational services that can help you determine whether you child learns by looking (visual-spatial), listening (auditory-sequential), or by moving and experiencing (kinesthetic and tactile).
By discovering your child’s learning strengths, you may be able to harness the parts of the brain that are working well, to remediate the parts of the brain that are shut down or being antagonized.
I have to add one point that is crucial to your child’s ability to learn - and that is your child’s health. His/her brain needs the right fuel to function optimally. Cleaning up the diet and focusing on nutrient-packed foods like fresh fruits and vegetables is critical to providing the brain with the substances it needs to rewire itself and return to optimal wellness.
Get busy and look for your child’s strengths!
I promise you will find them, but you do have to look.