Dr. Laurent Mottron at the University of Montreal's Center for Excellence in Pervasive Development Disorders strongly established and replicated the abilities -- and sometimes the superiority -- of people with autism in multiple cognitive operations such as perception and reasoning.
His research group includes several people with autism, and one, Michelle Dawson, makes major contributions to understanding of the condition through her work and her judgment, he said.
"Dawson challenged my scientific perception of autism," Mottron said in a statement. "It's amazing to me that for decades scientists have estimated the magnitude of mental retardation based on the administration of inappropriate tests, and on the misinterpretation of autistic strengths. Recent data and my own personal experience suggest it's time to start thinking of autism as an advantage in some spheres, not a cross to bear."
Mottron said many with autism end up working repetitive, menial jobs, despite their intelligence and aptitude to make much more significant contributions to society.
"Dawson and other autistic individuals have convinced me that, in many instances, people with autism need more than anything opportunities, frequently support, but rarely treatment," Mottron said. "As a result, my lab and others believe autism should be described and investigated as an accepted variant within human species, not as a defect to be suppressed."
The findings were published in the journal Nature.