Some people with autism have amazed experts with their outstanding memories, mathematical skills or musical talent. Now scientists have found that the genes thought to cause autism may also confer mathematical, musical and other skills on people without the condition.While this finding doesn't really qualify as "new" in the usual sense of the word, it is a nice confirmation that autism really does have its "up" sides. In fact, according to some, Asperger syndrome may actually account for the extraordinary contributions of such geniuses as Einstein, Mozart, and Galileo!
The finding has emerged from a study of autism among 378 Cambridge University students, which found the condition was up to seven times more common among mathematicians than students in other disciplines. It was also five times more common in the siblings of mathematicians.
So far, no one has actually identified the "genius" gene. But if there really is one - what a find it will be! Not only will it help to improve society's perception of autism, but it may also support better educational approaches, higher expectations, and improved self-esteem among people with autism. It may also be one more reason to question the idea that most autism is caused by environmental injury rather than heredity.
In fact, as research into the causes and significance of autism continues, it seems clearer and clearer to me that there are at least several completely different disorders now bunched together under the same "spectrum" umbrella. Inherited traits, such as mathematical genius and social awkwardness seem to describe only one form of "autism." Other forms seem to include a completely separate set of symptoms, ranging from loss of communication skills to physical illness, sensitivities to certain foods, and more.
I guess you could say we're living in interesting times....