People with autism often have special skills in mental arithmetic, music, art and drawing, memory, and mechanical and spatial abilities but little is known about what it is about autism that predisposes people to have these 'islets of ability.' Researchers from the Institute of Psychiatry in London studied 6,426 eight-year-olds. They asked their parents if their children had any special gifts or abilities and looked for autistic traits in the areas of social interaction, communication, and restricted and repetitive behaviours and interests. The children with special abilities showed significantly more autism-like traits than those without such abilities. The more intelligent a child was the more likely they were to have special abilities but the less likely they were to display autism-like behaviour. Special abilities were more strongly associated with restrictive and repetitive behaviour than social and communication problems.
Vital, Pedro M. ... [et al] - Relationship between special abilities and autistic-like traits in a large population-based sample of 8-year-olds Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry September 2009, 50(9), 1093-1101