Diversity in Social Intelligence

I found this very interesting. The University of Edinburgh is doing a "Diversity in Social Intelligence" project "challenging the notion that there is only one legitimate form of human intelligence. Specifically, we explored social intelligence in autism, drawing together diverse findings to build a hypothesis that autistic social skills may be enhanced in an autism-specific cultural context: i.e. when interacting with other people on the autism spectrum."

In other words it seems to show autistic people communicate with each other just as effectively as non-autistic people do but issues arise when autistic people try to communicate with non-autistic people and vice versa. The project has produced a number of peer reviewed papers and others are still in progress. If you go to the link and click on any of the papers there are summaries and conclusions so you don't have to read the entire paper unless you want to.

One paper that studied information transfer found "We found that autistic people share information with other autistic people as well as non-autistic people do with other non-autistic people. However, when there are mixed groups of autistic and non-autistic people, much less information is shared. Participants were also asked how they felt they had got on with the other person in the interaction. The people in the mixed groups also experienced lower rapport with the person they were sharing the story with. This finding is important as it shows that autistic people have the skills to share information well with one another and experience good rapport, and that there are selective problems when autistic and non-autistic people are interacting."

also quite interesting: "One implication of the ‘double empathy problem’ is that if autistic ‘social impairments’ result from a mismatch between autistic and non-autistic populations, they may disappear in within-group interactions. Thus, predictions based on clinical definitions of autism about autistic–autistic interaction would be that they would be non-functional or ineffective, and in contrast, predictions based on the Double Empathy theory about autistic–autistic interaction would be that they would be successful and positive. However, to date, there is no experimental evidence directly testing whether autistic–autistic interactions are successful."

The paper ends with: "Confirmation of the finding that autistic social difficulties operate solely across the autistic–non-autistic divide could have profound implications for the classification of autism as a disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (APA, 2013). In the meantime, our data suggest that (non-autistic) practitioners supporting autistic people should be conscious of the challenges to information-transfer described here. In the context of rising concern about suicide in autism (Cassidy & Rodgers, 2017) and evidence that ‘sense of belonging’ is a key protective factor against suicide (Pelton & Cassidy, 2017) evidence of improved rapport between autistic people bolsters existing calls for more autistic peer-to-peer support (Iemmi et al., 2017). Subsequent research is required to delineate the differences in autistic and non-autistic interaction styles, which will offer practical utility to psychologists, psychiatrists and health professionals, if they can be taught to adapt their communication style to better accommodate people with autism. While replications are warranted, this radical finding challenges the way autism has been characterised for decades, and there are significant and wide-reaching implications for how autistic people are supported in society."

There's also a paper in the same project regarding social relationships: "They highlight the need for autistic-led social opportunities and indicate benefits of informal peer support for autistic adults.

First, they found spending with other autistic people easier and more comfortable than spending time with neurotypical people, and felt they were better understood by other autistic people.

Second, autistic people often felt they were in a social minority, and in order to spend time with neurotypical friends and family, they had to conform with what the neurotypical people wanted and were used to.

Third, autistic people felt like they belonged with other autistic people and that they could be themselves around them. These findings show that having time with autistic friends and family can be very beneficial for autistic people and played an important role in a happy social life."

There are many interesting links, videos, etc on the page

All and all I found the whole thing (or at least what I read) quite fascinating.

I highly recommend you go to the project and take a look at some of the papers. Its a whole new way of looking at autism and as mentioned above, with significant and wide-reaching implications for how autistic people are supported in society. I hope there's more research on this.

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