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The Autism Spectrum Quotient, or AQ, is a questionnaire published in 2001 by Simon Baron-Cohen and his colleagues at the Autism Research Centre in Cambridge, UK. Consisting of fifty questions, its purpose is to determine the extent to which an adult of normal intelligence has the traits associated with autism spectrum conditions.
The test consists of fifty statements, each of which is in a forced-choice format. Each question allows the subject to indicate "Definitely agree", "Slightly agree", "Slightly disagree" or "Definitely disagree". Approximately half the questions are worded to elicit an "agree" response from normal individuals, and half to elicit a "disagree" response. The subject scores one point for each question which is answered "autistically" either slightly or definitely.
The questions cover five different domains associated with the autism spectrum: social skills; communication skills; imagination; attention to detail; and attention switching/tolerance of change.
Use as a diagnostic tool
In the initial trials of the test , the average score in the control group was 16.4, with men scoring slightly higher than women (about 17 versus about 15). 80% of adults diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders scored 32 or more, compared with only 2% of the control group.
The authors cited a score of 32 or more as indicating "clinically significant levels of autistic traits". However, although the test is popularly used for self-diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome, the authors caution that it is not intended to be diagnostic, and advise that anyone who obtains a high score and is suffering some distress should seek professional medical advice before jumping to any conclusions.
A further research paper indicated that the questionnaire could be used for screening in clinical practice, with scores of 26 or lower indicating that a diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome can effectively be ruled out.
Mathematicians, scientists, and engineers
The questionnaire was also trialled on Cambridge University students, and a group of sixteen winners of the British Mathematical Olympiad, to determine whether there was a link between a talent for mathematical and scientific disciplines and traits associated with the autism spectrum.
Mathematics, physical sciences and engineering students were found to score significantly higher, e.g. 21.8 on average for mathematicians and 21.4 for computer scientists. The average score for the British Mathematical Olympiad winners was 24.
Of the students who scored 32 or more on the test, eleven agreed to be interviewed and seven of these were reported to meet the DSM-IV criteria for Asperger Syndrome, although no formal diagnosis was made as they were not suffering any distress.
- ↑ S. Baron-Cohen, S. Wheelwright, R. Skinner, J. Martin and E. Clubley, The Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ) : Evidence from Asperger Syndrome/High Functioning Autism, Males and Females, Scientists and Mathematicians, Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 31, 5-17 (2001)
- ↑ M. Woodbury-Smith, J. Robinson and S. Baron-Cohen, Screening adults for Asperger Syndrome using the AQ : diagnostic validity in clinical practice, Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 35 331-335 (2005)
- es:Cociente de Espectro Autista
- sv:Autist Spectrum Quotient
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