Publication Type:Journal Article
Source:Cogn Neuropsychol, Volume 27, Issue 3, p.261-76 (2010)
Keywords:Autistic Disorder, Child, Humans, Intelligence, Male, Mathematical Concepts, Psychomotor Performance
Anecdotal reports of superior estimation abilities in autistic individuals (e.g., Sacks, 1985) have never been confirmed empirically. We present here case studies of 2 children with autistic spectrum diagnoses and report remarkable abilities in estimation for several quantifiable dimensions. K.T. and G.T. were tested at 9 years of age for estimation of rank, numerosity, time, weight, length, surface, distance, and precise enumeration for small numbers. Their performances were compared to those of 6 age- and IQ- matched comparison children. K.T. demonstrated a superior level of performance in estimating rank (e.g., which set has larger numerosity?) but his performance in other tasks was average. G.T. displayed outstanding performance in estimating numerosity, time, weight, surface, length, and distance, with average performance in other tasks. These results show that certain autistic spectrum individuals may develop superior and highly specialized abilities in estimation. We discuss these findings in relation to the role of "veridical mapping" in the development of special ability (Mottron, Dawson, & Soulieres, 2009; Mottron, Dawson, Soulieres, Hubert, & Burack, 2006a). Veridical mapping is the detection of isomorphism within a code, between two codes, or between one code and isomorphic elements of the world. Within this framework, it is proposed that estimation abilities, like absolute pitch, rely on the ability to map a verbal code with a specific magnitude of a psychophysical dimension.