Researchers found no association between problem behavior and academic achievement.
But social skills did seem to matter in how well kids did at school. Children who had higher social skills at age 6, including such skills as introducing themselves to others and understanding compromise and cooperation, had better word reading skills at age 9.
The next step for researchers is to determine how the children actually do in the classroom, Estes said.
Questions she'd like to answer are whether teachers and others recognize the children with the higher IQs and academic abilities, or if social and communication difficulties hold them back, and, conversely, do they identify kids who have a learning disability in one particular area?
"Some may be really excellent at math, but because of attention problems that might not be recognized," Estes said. "Or, if the child seems to be doing pretty well, maybe people aren't aware that they are struggling in certain areas."
Future studies are also needed to determine if low achievement is connected to specific learning disabilities and to better understand high acheivement in children with autism spectrum disorder, the researchers said.
Amy Keefer, a clinical psychologist at the Kennedy Krieger Institute's Center for Autism and Related Disorders in Baltimore, said she often sees such divergences between intelligence scores and certain academic skills in her patients with an autism spectrum disorder.
"Anecdotally, I see it happening a lot," Keefer said. "It highlights how complex the neurocognitive profile is for high-functioning kids with ASD and that complexity is what leads to these unusual patterns in academic achievement."
Reading comprehension is a common area of struggle for some kids with autism, Keefer said. Though some
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