As awareness of autism increases generally, many people are wondering specifically how autism differs from intellectual disability. In this episode, Monica Meyer makes the differences and similarities easy to understand.
Listen or Read
Today, we’re talking with Monica Meyer of Monica Meyer Consulting, an expert in adult autism.
Monica, how is autism different than intellectual disability?
Monica Meyer: That’s a good question, Patrick. Autism and an intellectual disability are uniquely different disabilities. A person with an intellectual disability can have co-occurring diagnosis with autism, but how they are uniquely different is, to be very short and blunt, is … A bureaucratic definition would be that a person with an intellectual disability typically has an IQ of 70 and below.
A person with autism may have a high intelligence quotient, and, basically, they see the world in a different way than, perhaps, a person who would be a neurotypical, a person like you or I that are able to take in information through our senses, through, just through our observation. A person with autism has difficulty with that.
What are some communication strategies that you’ve found to be effective?
Monica Meyer: Well, a little bit about that is, you know, communication supports for people with autism are crucial, because it really is one of the defining criteria of autism: that it is a communication, social communication disorder in the way that people with autism don’t necessarily have the reciprocal way to communicated their wants, their needs. It doesn’t mean that the information isn’t there, and a lot of times it’s not, they’re not able to either recall it or to express that.
What I would say is that many people with autism are visual thinkers, and so that we need to put supports in place in a visual manner so that the person with autism and understand what is being expected of them.
What are the implications, then, to learning?
Monica Meyer: This is incredible. I mean, the implications to learning really are based on communication, and if there isn’t a functional way to communicate, the ability to learn is really compromised for the person with autism.
We have to understand how the person communicated, give them options to communicate. Then, learning can occur. Without that, what happens is that we have a person who then becomes very prompt-dependent on a support person, because they become the entity that helps them process information, follow directions, rather than being a person who is able to initiate, have experience in choice and independence, so it’s really important that we do offer communication supports in a functional way for the person with autism.
Thank you, Monica. For more information, listeners may call Monica at 360-904-8938 or visit monicameyer.com.
If you’re involved with adult autism, as a parent or support professional, you’ll want to regularly follow our blogcasts to stay up on the latest information and advances in the field.