Are genius and autism connected?


Child prodigies show disproportionately high rates of autism spectrum disorders, score higher on tests of autistic traits and are more likely to have family members with autism.

Via Science Daily:

A new study of eight child prodigies suggests a possible link between these children’s special skills and autism. Of the eight prodigies studied, three had a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders. As a group, the prodigies also tended to have slightly elevated scores on a test of autistic traits, when compared to a control group. In addition, half of the prodigies had a family member or a first- or second-degree relative with an autism diagnosis.


“Our findings suggest that prodigies may have some moderated form of autism that actually enables their extraordinary talent.”

Simon Baron-Cohen notes that “geeky couples” may be more likely to have autistic children. Parents who are engineers or come from families of engineers have far higher rates than normal. Silicon Valley reports “exceptionally high rates of autism.”

Via Scientific American:

…12.5 percent of fathers of children with autism were engineers, compared with only 5 percent of fathers of children without autism.

…21.2 percent of grandfathers of children with autism had been engineers, compared with only 2.5 percent of grandfathers of children without autism. The pattern appeared on both sides of the family. Women who had a child with autism were more likely to have a father who had been an engineer—and they were more likely to have married someone whose father had been an engineer.


Silicon Valley and other tech-savvy communities report exceptionally high rates of autism. These trends might reflect a link between genes that contribute to autism and genes behind technical aptitude.

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