Not Intelligent Enough With An IQ of 70

© Donna Williams

I recently got the current edition of a wonderful newsletter for individuals with Autism, Aspergers, PDD and PDDNOS called MAAP. In it was an article by the NIH Centre of excellence in autism at the University of Pittsburgh in the USA. They were calling for participants in an ongoing research project studying how people with Autism think and genetic links to autism. It was put out there by Nancy J Minshew MD, an expert in autism.

The criteria for who was eligible to participate included 3 different things:

  • being between 8-55,
  • being verbal,
  • and having an IQ between 80-125.

Well I didn't know whether to laugh or be annoyed. My last IQ test (age 26 and after having got an honours degree and whilst getting a diploma in education) was 70. I was genius level for some things, quite 'retarded' for others and the end result was a score that would put me in the mildly mentally retarded range and not eligible to participate in this research by the Centre of Excellence in Autism into how people with Autism think.

So, as an international bestselling autistic author with 9 published books in the field of Autism (three of them text books used in training teachers, psychologists etc) and certainly one of the world's most well known people diagnosed with Autism, I'm not eligible to help inform these folks at the Centre for Excellence in Autism on the basis I'm basically too mentally retarded.

And what about those non-verbal people with university degrees, some also authors of books?

It seems that the Centre of Excellence in Autism was not presently interested in hearing how non-verbal people think.

As someone who struggled in late childhood both to learn interpretive language and jump from my language of pattern, theme and feel into something comprehensible by non-auties and someone who struggled for some years after that even then to dare use verbal language interpersonally, I feel that if I thought like most verbal Auties I wouldn't have had these hassles!

I'm not like those on the Spectrum who can make pictures out of what they hear.

I don't think in pictures. My receptive language is not good, much of it tumbled, other parts left unprocessed without even literal meaning. At best I understand 70% of receptive language on familiar topics for the first 20 mins, then 50%, 30%, sometimes back to about 10%. And personally, I think that how I think is still pretty interesting.

My interests are not intellectual. I'm not a techie, a scientist, an engineer, a mathematician or a book worm. I don't understand fluently documentaries or have the capacity to cohesively follow the workings of intricate political groups. Even writing a shopping list means carrying the empty container down the shop. I'm no Einstein, but I think my views still matter. It's not for lack of passion or interest either. I'm simply an artist instead.

I blah in the autism field (my most fluent verbal topic next to natural medicine) but I don't talk on my own interests because these are about lickable surfaces and street lights, about edible smells and watching leaves from laying under tree branches. I like to talk to gravel, I play with my bowl of bits and pieces to speak through and hold concepts in the context of each other in ways my verbal mind cannot.

In writing I shine (although I talk on Autism astoundingly!... maybe because I wrote so many books on it). For some reason, there, in that part of my brain is about the only place it all seems all switched on and everyone is home.... and maybe art and sculpture and music. But here in the real world I still cross the road very autie style (rat does maze....), understand only through being physically put through the motions of any new gadget till its patterned, and still am struggling to work the cooker or turn it off since being in this house a year. I can now run a bath in the right order but only for the last two years. I'm 40.

I forget I have a left arm quite often except when I eat and it sticks food in my face whilst my right hand continues to feed me with a fork and neither know each other are there. I am still 50-50 on the left and right thing which can be interesting when I indicate with the windscreen wipers and respond to rain by indicating (yes, I can drive, but its rather interesting at times). I haven't learned to take my shoes off in the house or coat off when I arrive somewhere. I can't put any of my things down away from me in a strange place or they will not exist for me and I'll leave them so all things are stacked with me... even on stage when I speak.

I still will think a new microwave somewhere might be a TV, a pendant the right shape is a mini TV, a ceiling with a ducted airconditioning hose might be running to a room sized clothes dryer on the other side, a desk with curvy legs is hiding a piano, an elevator with blue tiles is a moving toilet cubicle with the toilet removed. I'll still see the sticks under 'glass' on the table and ask where the toothpicks are I asked for. I'll get out a knife and fork and eat 'with' them and put the food into my face with my hands. I've stopped being interpersonal with the chairs, the mirror, my cup of tea but I still feel gravel talks to me when it crunches. I know when a stranger has come to meet me because of the 'lines of intention' in his/her body. I know from someones breathing and first word uttered when someone on a phone has never met me and phoned to get something not to give.

I navigate by pattern, theme, feel... my original language,... the language of sensing. I feel patterns like only an animals can.

I love to tickle Chris' bottom (he's not impressed), try to sit on his lap on the loo (he's not impressed), do a lot of flashing (here at home where its safe), commonly dance in the street, do about 30% of my home communication self directed and often through songs in which I speak in pattern, theme, feel and not easy to grasp interpretively unless you knew me really well (this morning I sang the SPC spaghetti commercial which meant I was excited to be having a Donna-safe cake for breakfast). Do I think strangely? You betcha. But then my IQ was only 70. Perhaps the centre of excellence in Autism is only looking for those far more excellent than me.

I do understand the discrimination. I don't let people know me too much in my own ways and language. They are often lacking the ability.