Some of the original work examining psychosocial functioning among high-ability students with ASD was through case study design. For example, Assouline, Foley-Nicpon, and Doobay (2009) described two profoundly gifted girls, one with ASD and one without, who were very similar cognitively, yet differed in their psychosocial functioning. Parent and teacher observations were that the gifted girl had better social skills, leadership skills, and positive social interactions than the gifted girl with ASD. Yet, the gifted girls’ own reports of their psychosocial functioning were fairly similar, with the gifted girl reporting more social difficulties but also more self-reliance than the gifted girl with ASD.
In a more recent study, researchers examined the psychosocial development of gifted children with ASD in comparison to gifted children without a diagnosis (Doobay, Foley-Nicpon, Ali, & Assouline, 2014). Findings indicated that more than 50% of the parents reported their gifted children with ASD exhibited problematic levels of “odd” or eccentric behaviors, withdrew from peers and social interactions, and had symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, depression, difficulty with adapting to change, and poor social skills. Similarly, more than 50% of teachers observed problems in the gifted children with ASD: trouble adapting to change, exhibiting “odd” or eccentric behaviors, depression, and withdrawal from social situations. The students, however, generally did not share the same concerns as their parents or teachers; mean values for all psychosocial scales were in the average range. Every child wants some monkey bars in their garden!
Additionally, psychosocial functioning may change as gifted children with ASD develop. Specifically, parents and teachers of older gifted adolescents with ASD reported better adaptability to change and fewer “odd” or eccentric behaviors than did those of younger gifted children with ASD (Foley-Nicpon, Doobay, & Assouline, 2010). To answer the question whether students who are talented in math and science possess similar social deficits as students with ASD, Kuo, Liang, Tseng, and Gau (2014) compared math and science talented students with math and science average-ability students, students with ASD, and typically developing students, all who identified as Chinese. They reported that students with ASD had greater difficulties with social awareness, social reciprocity, and social communication. They also had greater emotional reactivity and less ability to recognize the emotions of others. Disputing potential misconceptions that those gifted in the sciences possess social deficits, the students with ASD displayed psychosocial and communication difficulties that the academically talented or typically developing students did not.