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Kids With Autism and Child Prodigies May Share Certain Traits
Date:11/16/2012

By Amy Norton
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Nov. 16 (HealthDay News) -- The child Mozarts of the world may have some traits in common with children with autism, a new study suggests, in findings researchers say could eventually offer clues into the developmental disorder.

It's estimated that about one in 88 children has an autism spectrum disorder, an umbrella term for a group of developmental brain disorders that hinder a person's ability to communicate and interact with others. These range from the severe cases of "classic" autism to a relatively mild form called Asperger's syndrome.

Child prodigies -- those kids with exceptional, beyond-their-years talent in areas like music, art or math -- are much more rare.

No one is sure of the exact figures, but a good guess would be about one in 5 million is a prodigy, said Joanne Ruthsatz, an assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State University and lead author of a study published in the September-October issue of Intelligence.

In theory, there could be a connection between kids with autism and child prodigies. There are, after all, autistic "savants," who have some type of remarkable skill -- often in math or art -- despite their developmental disability.

To study the question, Ruthsatz and colleague Jourdan Urbach of Yale University tracked down eight child prodigies -- including two musicians who were playing Carnegie Hall around kindergarten age, and another who was programming computers by age 3 and reproducing complicated musical pieces at age 4.

Each prodigy, two of whom are now adults, took a standard test of traits associated with autism.

The prodigies scored higher-than-normal on the autism trait "attention to detail" and outscored a comparison group composed of 58 people with Asperger's or "high-functioning" autism with normal-range IQs.

"It's that attention to detail that really
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