A reader I will call “Passa” wrote the following:
My Autism-spectrum Quotient (AQ) is 33, and in a couple of weeks I’ll know for sure if I have Asperger’s syndrome (many childhood oddities, which to a degree still survive in me today, clearly imply I am somewhere on the spectrum). I suspect comorbidity with ADD (which is strongly supported by my WAIS results, in addition to my own self-awareness), and also mild OCD.
My major was in Computer Science, but I dropped out after one year and now I’m about to begin my Mathematics degree. Initially I suspected I wasn’t smart enough to obtain a degree in the latter, but later I realized I would be capable of obtaining it, granted I would undergo pharmacological or whatever therapy to decrease the effect of ADD on my cognition. I am really good at understanding complex concepts, somewhat less at doing long and complicated calculations (one more reason for dropping out of highly-computational Computer Science). My current goal is: doing research in the fields of Category Theory and Mathematical Logic.
The reader also stated:
I was tested in Italian, but scores were based on US norms, due to the fact that Italian norms don’t exist for the WAIS-III. My ancestry is:
– 75% South Italian (specifically from Campania)
– 25% North Italian (specifically from Lombardy)
RR is that you? 🙂 Just kidding.
Not a month goes by where someone doesn’t send me an email asking me, begging me, to take a look at their Wechsler scores or the Wechsler scores of their loved ones. I don’t really like doing this, because one’s Wechsler scores are between them and their psychologist, and I, a mere blogger, am not qualified to diagnose anyone or give psychological advice, so this blog post is for entertainment and educational purposes only.
“Passa” recently took the WAIS-III age 20. What follows are his scores expressed in IQ equivalents (U.S. norms) with values corrected for the Flynn effect (since the WAIS-III is now outdated, the IQs in parentheses are how I estimate he would have scored had he been given the more recently normed WAIS-IV instead, based on page 240 of James Flynn’s book Are We Getting Smarter? There’s no data on the Flynn effect for Letter-Number Sequencing but working memory subtests historically show the least Flynn effects). Note that subtest scores are reported on a scale where the U.S. mean is set at 10 with a standard deviation of 3, and IQs use a scale where the U.S. mean and standard deviation are set at 100 and 15 respectively. To convert scaled scores to IQ equivalents, merely multiply by 5 and then add 50.
I have divided the scores not into the traditional Verbal vs Performance IQ of the original Wechsler scales, but a more complex taxonomy the latest Wechsler scales are moving towards:
– Vocabulary: 17 (16)
– Similarities: 17 (16.3)
– Information: 18 (17.5)
– Comprehension: 16 (15.6)
Verbal Comprehension IQ 145 (140)
– Arithmetic: 15 (15)
– Digit Span: 13 (12.7)
– Letter-Number Sequencing: 13
Working Memory IQ 121 (121)
– Picture Completion: 13 (12.1)
– Block Design: 15 (14.7)
Spatial IQ 125 (121)
– Matrix Reasoning: 16 (15.4)
Abstract logic IQ 130 (127)
– Digit Symbol-Coding: 6 (5.8)
– Symbol Search: 9 (9)
Processing speed IQ 86 (86)
Passa is clearly very bright, and when it comes to verbal comprehension, brilliant, but he’s dragged down by very low processing speed. Low scores in this domain are associated with autism, so it’s not surprising that Passa’s pursuing an Asperger’s diagnosis. I have no idea whether Passa is autistic or not, but autistics may struggle with processing speed subtests either because they lack the executive function to efficiently shift focus, or the high anxiety and perfectionism of autistics slows them down on speed tasks.
On the other hand, the low processing speed score may not be a sign of autism, but be caused by attention problems associated with Passa’s suspected ADD, but given the relatively high Working Memory IQ, attention problems seem less likely. Either way, Passa may wish to ask his psychologist if he should avoid fields that call for rapid multitasking until these issues are resolved.
I have no idea whether Passa has autism and it’s not my place to opine, but his Wechsler profile (very low processing speed, Vocab, Info, Similarities > Comprehension, Block Design > Picture Completion) is consistent with autism, but his psychologist will need to know a lot more about him than just that to draw a reliable conclusion.
But autism is not necessarily a bad thing. A little autism might be good if you want to go into highly scientific or systematic fields, and while his score on the socially loaded Comprehension subtest is the lowest of his verbal comprehension scores, it’s still extremely high, suggesting he’s not clueless socially, at least not on an abstract verbal level.
Passa writes “I am really good at understanding complex concepts, somewhat less at doing long and complicated calculations”. The understanding of complex concepts is consistent with a verbal comprehension IQ of 140, but the less spectacular, though still very high, Working Memory IQ of 121 may drag down his ability to do long complex calculations.
Passa writes ” My current goal is: doing research in the fields of Category Theory and Mathematical Logic.” My advise is don’t do anything until you know what you’re really passionate about. Is this truly what you want to do with the rest of your life? Is this what captures your imagination and gets you up in the morning? Is this the topic you’re most obsessed with? If so, I’d say “go for it”, but talk it over with your psychologist first. Your combination of extremely highly verbal abstract ability (Similarities) plus very high Arithmetic and Matrix reasoning scores, suggests you’d be quite competitive in abstract math.