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What is the typical IQ range of someone with autism?

Autism, also known as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects individuals’ communication, social interaction, and behavior. One aspect closely associated with autism is the range of intellectual ability that individuals with autism may possess. In this blog post, we will explore the typical IQ range of someone with autism and delve into the factors that influence this range.

Autism and IQ Range

According to research, the IQ distribution among individuals with autism varies significantly. Approximately 31% of children with ASD have an intellectual disability, indicated by an IQ score below 70. This means that these individuals may experience limitations in cognitive functioning and adaptive skills. On the other hand, 25% of individuals with autism fall within the borderline range, with IQ scores ranging from 71 to 85. Lastly, 44% of individuals with autism have average to above average IQ scores, indicating a cognitive ability higher than 85.

Factors Influencing IQ Range in Individuals with Autism

Several factors contribute to the IQ range observed among individuals with autism. Firstly, genetic factors play a role in determining cognitive abilities. Some genetic variations associated with autism have also been linked to intellectual disability. Additionally, environmental factors, such as prenatal complications or early childhood experiences, can influence cognitive development. Lastly, neurodevelopmental differences in the brain may contribute to variations in intellectual abilities among individuals with autism.

Intellectual Disability and Autism

Definition and Criteria of Intellectual Disability

Intellectual disability refers to significant limitations in both intellectual functioning and adaptive behavior. It is assessed through standardized measures of intelligence quotient (IQ) and the evaluation of adaptive skills in areas such as communication, self-care, and socialization. An IQ score below 70 is typically used to diagnose intellectual disability.

How Intellectual Disability is Assessed in Individuals with Autism

Assessing intellectual disability in individuals with autism can be complex due to the unique challenges they face in communication, social interaction, and behavior. Standardized IQ tests, such as the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC), are often used to measure cognitive abilities. Additionally, assessments of adaptive functioning, which evaluate an individual’s everyday skills, are crucial in diagnosing intellectual disability in individuals with autism.

Challenges Faced by Individuals with Autism and Intellectual Disability

Individuals with autism and intellectual disability may face significant challenges in various aspects of their lives. They might struggle with communication and social interaction, making it difficult for them to form meaningful relationships and participate fully in society. Additionally, they may require ongoing support with daily tasks and have difficulties with independent living skills, further impacting their quality of life.

Borderline IQ Range and Autism

Characteristics of Individuals with Autism in the Borderline IQ Range

Individuals with autism who fall within the borderline IQ range (71-85) often exhibit a mix of abilities and challenges. They might have some cognitive strengths but also struggle with certain tasks that require abstract or complex thinking. These individuals might experience difficulties in academic settings, requiring additional support to reach their full potential.

Challenges and Strengths Associated with Borderline Intellectual Functioning in Autism

Individuals with autism in the borderline IQ range may face challenges in areas requiring higher cognitive abilities, such as problem-solving, abstract reasoning, and understanding nuances in social interactions. However, they may also possess unique strengths, such as attention to detail, visual thinking, and a strong memory for facts or specific interests. These strengths can be harnessed and celebrated to support their overall development.

Average to Above Average IQ Range and Autism

Characteristics of Individuals with Autism in the Average to Above Average IQ Range

Individuals with autism who fall into the average to above average IQ range (above 85) are often referred to as “high-functioning” or “intellectually capable.” They typically possess average or higher cognitive abilities and may demonstrate strengths in areas such as language, memory, and problem-solving. However, they may still face challenges related to social interaction, sensory sensitivities, and flexibility in thinking.

The Concept of “High-Functioning” Autism

It is important to note that the term “high-functioning” autism is controversial and not universally accepted. The term implies that individuals with autism who have average to above average IQs are functioning well in all areas of their lives, which may not always be the case. It is crucial to understand and support individuals with autism based on their unique strengths and challenges, regardless of their IQ range.

Strengths and Abilities Exhibited by Individuals with Autism and High IQ

Individuals with autism and high IQ can display remarkable abilities and talents in their areas of interest. They might possess exceptional memory, intense focus, creativity, and attention to detail. These strengths can be utilized in various domains, such as science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEM), or other specialized fields.

Factors Impacting IQ Assessment in Individuals with Autism

Challenges with Standardized Testing in Individuals with Autism

Standardized IQ tests, although widely used, can present challenges for individuals with autism. These tests often rely heavily on verbal and social communication skills, which are areas where individuals with autism may struggle. The format and structure of these tests may not fully capture their true cognitive abilities, potentially leading to an underestimation of their IQ scores.

Importance of Considering Strengths and Alternative Assessment Methods

To gain a more comprehensive understanding of an individual with autism’s intellectual abilities, it is essential to consider their strengths and use alternative assessment methods. For example, performance-based assessments that focus on practical problem-solving or observations of everyday functioning can provide a clearer picture of their cognitive skills and adaptive behaviors. Acknowledging and utilizing their strengths can lead to more accurate assessments and better support for their overall development.


In conclusion, the IQ range among individuals with autism is diverse. Approximately 31% have an intellectual disability, 25% fall in the borderline range, and 44% have average to above-average IQ scores. It is important to recognize that intellectual ability varies within the autism spectrum and that individuals with autism should be supported based on their unique strengths and challenges, regardless of their IQ range. By understanding and embracing the diverse cognitive abilities of individuals with autism, we can provide them with the necessary tools and support to thrive in all aspects of their lives.


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