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Although intellectual disability is common among people with autism, some have a very high IQ. Individuals with autism and a very high IQ are sometimes called “twice-exceptional” or 2e. For some symptoms, a higher IQ is associated with fewer problems. In other areas, the opposite is true. By partnering with the Belin-Blank Center at the University of Iowa and reviewing the records of over 1,000 gifted individuals, we were able to identify both specific strengths, and specific challenges that 2e individuals face compared to normal IQ individuals (with and without ASD). We found that 2e individuals have specific strengths in working memory and verbal comprehension, but they also experience significantly more mood and anxiety problems than their autistic peers in the normal IQ range. Some analyses suggest increased rates of suicidal thoughts among 2e individuals, underscoring the urgency of better understanding the twice-exceptional population.
Dr. Jake Michaelson is a Roy J. Carver associate professor in psychiatry and neuroscience and the division director of computational and molecular psychiatry at the University of Iowa. His lab uses advanced computational approaches to study the effect of genetic variations on the development of the brain, with specific applications in autism and language impairment. He earned his B.S. and M.S. in biological engineering at Utah State University before earning his PhD in computational biology at the Technische Universitat Dresden in Germany in 2010. After his time in Germany, he joined the lab of psychiatric geneticist Jonathan Sebat at UC San Diego, where he completed his postdoctoral training and published several of the earliest papers dealing with whole genome sequencing in autism. In 2013 he joined the faculty at the University of Iowa, and his current research is supported by NIMH, NIDCD, the Simons Foundation, and the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation.