A study of eight child prodigies suggests a significant link between their special abilities and autism.
“The link between child prodigies and autism is strong in our study,” said Joanne Ruthsatz, Ph.D., lead author of the study and assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State University.
“Our findings suggest child prodigies have traits in common with autistic children, but something is preventing them from displaying the deficits we associate with the disorder.”
Of the eight prodigies who took part in the study, three had a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. As a whole, the prodigies also tended to have slightly higher scores on a test of autistic traits, when compared to a control group.
Furthermore, half of the prodigies had a family member or a first- or second-degree relative with autism.
Ruthsatz said it is surprising that half of the families and three of the prodigies themselves were affected by autism since autism occurs in only one of 120 individuals.
Researchers also found that while child prodigies had higher general intelligence scores, where they really excelled was in working memory—they all scored above the 99th percentile on this trait.