WHAT IS THE AUTISM SPECTRUM
The Autism Spectrum Quotient, or AQ, is a questionnaire
published in 2001 by Simon Baron-Cohen and his colleagues at the
Autism Research Centre in Cambridge, UK. Consisting of fifty questions,
its purpose is to determine the extent to which an adult of normal
intelligence has the traits associated with Autism spectrum conditions.
The test was popularized by Wired Magazine
in December 2001 when published alongside their article, "The
Geek Syndrome"and is commonly, though possibly erroneously,
used for self diagnosis of Asperger
The test consists of fifty statements, each of
which is in a forced-choice format. Each question allows the subject
to indicate "Definitely agree", "Slightly agree",
"Slightly disagree" or "Definitely disagree".
Approximately half the questions are worded to elicit an "agree"
response from normal individuals, and half to elicit a "disagree"
response. The subject scores one point for each question which is
answered "autistically" either slightly or definitely.
The questions cover five different domains associated
with the Autism spectrum: social skills; communication skills; imagination;
attention to detail; and attention switching/tolerance of change.
Use as a diagnostic tool for Autism and asperger's
In the initial trials of the test] , the average
score in the control group was 16.4, with men scoring slightly higher
than women (about 17 versus about 15). 80% of adults diagnosed with
Autism spectrum disorders scored 32 or more, compared with only
2% of the control group.
The authors cited a score of 32 or more as indicating
"clinically significant levels of autistic traits". However,
although the test is popularly used for self-diagnosis of Asperger
Syndrome, the authors caution that it is not intended to be diagnostic,
and advise that anyone who obtains a high score and is suffering
some distress should seek professional medical advice before jumping
to any conclusions.
A further research paper indicated that the questionnaire
could be used for screening in clinical practice, with scores of
26 or lower indicating that a diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome can
effectively be ruled out.
Autism, mathematicians, scientists, and engineers
The questionnaire was also trialed on Cambridge
University students, and a group of sixteen winners of the British
Mathematical Olympiad, to determine whether there was a link between
a talent for mathematical and scientific disciplines and traits
associated with the autism spectrum.
Mathematics, physical sciences and engineering
students were found to score significantly higher, e.g. 21.8 on
average for mathematicians and 21.4 for computer scientists. The
average score for the British Mathematical Olympiad winners was
Of the students who scored 32 or more on the test,
eleven agreed to be interviewed and seven of these were reported
to meet the DSM-IV
criteria for Asperger Syndrome, although no formal diagnosis
was made as they were not suffering any distress.
Click here for the full
range of Asperger's and Autism fact sheets at www.autism-help.org
This autism fact sheet is licensed under the GNU
Free Documentation. It is derivative of an Autism and Asperger's
syndrome-related articles at http://en.wikipedia.org