Contributions are from a wide variety of fields and include but are not limited to contributions in the arts by people such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Tim Burton, and Andy Warhol and contributions in the science and technology field such as Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Temple Grandin, and Alfred Kinsey.
For example, I’d like to highlight Temple Grandin, a well-known animal behaviorist. Grandin is also an author and speaker on autism whose books describe a first-hand account of living with autism. Emergence Labeled Autistic outlines how they became successful in the animal science field. Visual Thinking: The Hidden Gifts of People Who Think in Pictures Patterns and Abstractions explores the hidden gifts of people who think about and understand the world in different ways. If we also thought about things the same way, the world would be a very boring place!
While there are both strengths and challenges identified among autistic people, I’d like to focus on finding strengths in autism and share some examples of these, including sensory strengths, cognitive strengths, and behavioral strengths. Each person is uniquely wired, as is their level of impairment and the strengths that each person demonstrates. While not every person with autism will demonstrate all these strengths, these are ones that have been identified by scientific research as unique traits identified within the autistic population.
Visual – hypersensitivity to visual details and intensity of colors; great at pattern recognition–being able to discriminate between similar objects and patterns.
Auditory – enhanced auditory perception of sound; more likely to have better musical ability and perfect pitch, ability to tune into auditory signals, and can show supervisor auditory discrimination.
Olfactory – enhanced ability to detect smells.
Synesthesia – may be able to perceive multiple senses simultaneously.
Cognitive & Behavioral Strengths
Memory & Focus – powerful memory system; may have knowledge like an encyclopedia impacted by an intense focus on interests and strengths in visual memory; strengths in areas such as facial recognition.
Rational Decision Making & Problem Solving – can demonstrate supervisor abilities in both decision-making and problem-solving, strengthen by visual sensory strengths.
Savant or Giftedness – scattered development; may have superior strengths in one or more areas. Individuals may be identified as savant, genius, or gifted.
A person with autism often presents with a Strong Work Ethic. Combined with the strengths above, they often excel in careers in science, technology, mathematics, or other fields of interest where the individual can utilize their specialized knowledge and creativity in areas that are of special interest.
In addition, some of the most kind, funny, and endearing people I know identify as autistic.
Let’s take a moment to reflect on these amazing strengths that have been identified among individuals on the autism spectrum and consider how you might build on strengths rather than focus on weaknesses.
Written By: Charlotte Johnson, MA, LPCC
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