Study finds autistic children excel at numbers

Children with autism and average IQs consistently demonstrated superior math skills compared with non-autistic children in the same IQ range, according to a new study by Stanford researchers.

"There appears to be a unique pattern of brain organization that underlies superior problem-solving abilities in children with autism," said Vinod Menon, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the School of Medicine and a member of the Child Health Research Institute at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital.

Though all the children in the study had normal IQs, those with autism did better on a standardized math test, using analytic strategies to solve problems. MRI brain scans of the autistic children revealed an unusual pattern of activity in an area typically associated with recognizing faces and objects.

The researchers say the study confirms that high-functioning children with autism have especially strong number-solving abilities, based on different brain organization. "Our study supports the idea that atypical brain development in autism can lead to some remarkable cognitive strengths. We think this can be reassuring to parents," Menon said.

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2024 ISSUE 1

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