July 18th, 2011
07:46 AM ET

What are the chances I'm a genius?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Mondays, it's pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Shu.

Asked by Zachary from Portsmouth, Rhode Island
I'm a 14-year-old boy and I was told that I have Asperger's syndrome. The doctors told us that I have the IQ of a borderline genius. On average what are the chances of that happening?

Expert answer
Thanks for your question. In general, there is a small chance of being considered a borderline genius or better, maybe about 5% or so. But let's first talk a little about your diagnosis and then we will put that into perspective with the IQ (intelligence quotient).

As you probably learned, Asperger's syndrome or disorder is considered to be part of the spectrum of autistic disorders but by definition does not include intellectual disabilities.

Since language and social delays are often not noticeable before about age 3, Asperger's disorder is typically diagnosed later than autism - on average around 11 years according to one study, although other reports show that the diagnosis usually occurs by age 6 - so your diagnosis at 14 years old is not out of the ordinary.

It is unclear how common Asperger's disorder is, but estimates range anywhere from 1 in 250 to 1 in 10,000 children. It is diagnosed roughly five times more often in boys than in girls, and it's quite likely that many people in America have Asperger's syndrome without having a diagnosis.

There are many different ways to test a person's intelligence, as well as different scales for interpreting the scores. People who test in the top 2% to 3% may be considered high scorers and possibly labeled as a genius.

For example, one scale uses a score of 100 as average and follows a bell-shaped curve so that 95% of the population would test between 70 and 130 points. Some scales state that scores in the 130 to 140 range might be considered gifted or near genius or other such labels while scores above 140 might be considered genius, but these tests and scales vary greatly.

Depending on how your doctors determined your IQ status, you likely scored in one of the higher intelligence ranges, which has a relatively small chance of happening, but since people with Asperger's are, by definition, at least of average intelligence, your score is a little less of a surprise.

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soundoff (181 Responses)
  1. Jane

    I think this kid need a dose of modesty. Why not take his "borderline genius" and help with our debt instead of being vain!

    July 20, 2011 at 13:44 | Report abuse | Reply
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    July 21, 2011 at 13:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Dawn

    My 14 yr old son was recently diagnosed with Aspbergers, in several areas he scored off the charts for his age. Probably a genius would have to score off the charts in all areas.

    July 25, 2011 at 13:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Ryan Joel Hughes


    It's probably also worth noting that those of us with asperger syndrome (aspie) are typically able to become completely focused on a particular activity, and the detail around it. This can be a one off activity, like tests or an on going topic of interest, like cars. I strongly recommend you take a look at the following talk from a famous aspie. http://www.ted.com/talks/temple_grandin_the_world_needs_all_kinds_of_minds.html

    August 4, 2011 at 19:31 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.