Are Autistic People Smart? Autism Geniuses

Many people on the autism spectrum have higher-than-average intelligence, and are considered geniuses.

steven zauderer
Steven Zauderer
September 20, 2023
min read

Are People With Autism Smart?

People with autism can be smart, but autism itself doesn't make people smarter. Autism also doesn't guarantee intelligence, though many people with ASD do well in academics, in the workforce, and in IQ tests.

A cognitive disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, is also a disability in behavioral and social development. A common falsehood is that autism is a mental disorder or illness, which isn't true.

On its own, ASD doesn't boost or lower intelligence in people.

Still, people diagnosed with the disorder sometimes have more than one diagnosis, possibly impacting their cognitive abilities and intelligence.

In entertainment, people with autism are sometimes portrayed as very smart. They're able to detect and find out things faster than the others around them.

Oftentimes, autistic characters solve complex issues while others have trouble trying the same thing. There are intelligent autistic people, but there are some that struggle with very basic problem-solving. At times, they're also shown in very unrealistic ways. In reality, this can be the opposite.

Autistic individuals may come across as having a lower intelligence, especially by their preteen or adolescent peers.

This can carry into adulthood. The causes for this are numerous, but the primary is their social awkwardness when around other people. Some won't speak much or carry on a few conversations. Social cues could be nonexistent or come to them slower.

Regardless, the autistic can excel and do well in school and life, in general. With the right therapy and support, symptoms found within autism may reduce to a level where they're no longer seen, even when in social settings.

Environmental factors have been studied as having a great effect on the intelligence of an individual. This is true for the autistic also. But autism's symptoms could be more severe or tame, depending on the setting that someone with the disorder is living in.

As far as intelligence goes, the general population is the same as those with an ASD diagnosis. Some will succeed, prosper, and earn good test scores on exams. But as a standalone behavioral condition, autism guarantees failure or easy achievements.

Average IQ Of Autistic People vs. Regular People

More than half of autistic people in the United States have an average or above-average intelligence quotient (IQ), an uptick over previous estimates, a new longitudinal study of children in Minnesota suggests.

Misconceptions about the disorder have led to stereotypes surrounding it, many of which are contemptuous and harmful. Some of the stereotypes deal with the way it's presented in music, culture, and the broader medical field.

The connections between intellect and autism are historical, even. Many famous people, for instance, have been thought of as possibly autistic, including major scientists, musicians, and leaders in academia.

Several years ago, An English University began studying the autism and intelligence link. It viewed over 500,000 people and found that traits of autism are typical in individuals in fields of technology, science, and other STEM professions.

Workers in this field undergo rigorous education and training to perform their duties, many of them very complex. Another study concluded that autism in kids has an equally high chance of harboring children with intelligence within a genius classification.

Autism And High-Intelligence: The Correlation & Cause

In a 2016 study, autism was found to be a disorder that exhibits intelligence. Other studies indicate that there exists a correlation between genetics surrounding an autistic person and mental standing.

In its conclusion, the results found that matching genes within someone with autism covers those matching for intelligence. Indicators show that high IQ and autism both have a mixed batch of correlations deemed convergent.

Large brain size is one of them, with another being rapid brain development.

Also shown was higher visual and sensory potential. Synaptic functions were seen in both at an increased level, and the economic and social status of both were high.

Autistic and high IQ people also had a larger brain size, though this could be from unusual states that are seen in autistic people undergoing MRIs. Still, both have lots of focus on decision-making.

Here are additional correlations shared between people with a high IQ and autism:

  • Interest in physics, chemistry, and mathematics
  • Great attention to detail and planning
  • Intimacy with people shares many physical similarities with them.

More studies into the correlations revealed that people with variances in genetics associated with autism maintained good scores on tests more than the average person with no symptoms did.

The people conducting the study were led to believe that people with ASD and neurotypical intelligence are slightly above the norm.

In Raven's Matrices intelligence tests, ASD takers also did well. The test uses patterns to evaluate analytical abilities. In a 2009 research panel, takers with autism were 40% quicker in finishing the exam than those with no disorder.

On the virtual portions of the test, people with autism did it 23% faster. It was 42% quicker for autistic test takers on analytics.

A similar 2015 study revealed that takers with autism made a 30% average grade, though some scored greater than 70%. This is a better percentage than on similar tests given to children aged between 6 and 16 years old. About 33% of kids with autism are within the intelligence level of having a disability.

Does Autism Cause People To Have A Higher IQ?

Evidence shows that the autistic can exhibit high IQs. However, there are also indicators of low IQ in people with ASD.

Moreover, the IQ of someone with autism could be significantly lower when factoring in problems regarding the taking of IQ tests. A sizable percentage of people with the disorder have disabilities surrounding their intellectual state.

Indeed, it's been estimated that about half of autistic people have disabilities relating to intelligence. Surprisingly, just 16% have intellectual conditions ranging from moderate to extreme.

Average intelligence exists in about 28%. It's important to note that intelligence ranges have shifted. Between the 1960s and 1990s, 20% of autistic individuals had a range of intelligence shown as normal. In 2014, half of the people with the disorder had intelligence above average, which is an IQ score of 85 and higher.


steven zauderer

CEO of CrossRiverTherapy - a national ABA therapy company based in the USA.

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