The Positives of Autism - Autism Awareness
The positives of having autism, two cute kids hugging and smiling

The Positives of Autism

Autism is often defined and described in terms of deficits. This happens in order to determine what supports are needed, for program design and implementation, and level of funding; but always talking about what a person can’t do or do as well as their peers can be demoralizing. Improvement can be difficult to see and small but significant gains are not celebrated. Talking about the deficits can also affect self-esteem and a person’s well-being.

I recently posted on Facebook an infographic about the positives of autism. That post had over 300,000 views and 4,000 shares which got me to thinking – people really want to highlight and talk about the positive aspects of autism and stop dwelling on what is perceived to be the negative ones. Thinking about autism in more favorable terms will change your thinking and responses towards someone with autism.

Here are the positives from the infographic:

  1. Attention to Detail – there is both a thoroughness and accuracy around specific details. This can be a real plus in jobs that require that skill such as quality control. Some more ideas for jobs can be found in this article by Temple Grandin.
  2. Deep Focus – concentration level can be very focused, allowing for freedom from distraction. My adult children spend hours on an activity that they enjoy. My son reads 2- 3 non-fiction books aloud to himself every week.
  3. Observation Skills – there is a listen, learn, look approach to learning. Facts are researched. For example, my daughter will observe an activity a number of times before she will participate, but when she does join in, she can do the task well.
  4. Absorb and Retain Facts – the long-term memory is excellent with superior recall. I am always amazed at the facts my son tells me about things he has learned years ago, particularly around the topics of Titanic and music.
  5. Visual Skills – tend to be visual learners and detail focused. Temple Grandin’s book Thinking in Pictures really highlights this.
  6. Expertise – there is in-depth knowledge on a topic and a high level of skills.
  7. Methodical Approach–  thought processes are analytical; can spot patterns and repetitions. Science, math and music are subjects that have patterns in them. Organizing and categorizing use these skills.
  8. Novel Approachesunique thought processes and innovative solutions. Here is a list of some famous people you may recognize who may have been or are on the spectrum and what they’ve contributed.
  9. Creativity – a distinctive imagination and expression of ideas. Here are some visual artists on the spectrum. The Art of Autism is also a great website to see the work of artists with autism.
  10. Tenacity and Resilience – determination and challenging opinions. To read more on this topic, have a look at this article.
  11. Accepting of Difference – less likely to judge others; may question norms. My adult children never judge people on the basis of social status, career, accomplishments etc. They love people for who they are.
  12. Integrity – honest, loyal and committed. For example, my daughter has never missed a shift in two years of volunteering at a no-kill cat charity. She says, “Those cats need me and depend on me. They need to be loved.”

Thinking about the positive aspects of autism can change the opinion of a potential employer, open doors to new opportunities, make the community more inclusive, and change how we support people with autism at home, school, and in the community. Teach to the strength and talk to parents about their children in terms of those strengths. A positive approach will build strong relationships, which is the base for good development and quality of life. Celebrate a different way of thinking and what that can add to the world we live in.

Further Reading

The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum

Developing Talents: Careers for Individuals with Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism

Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism

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9 Comments Moderation Policy

  1. Faraz Husain says:

    My Son 3.5 year Old , They have Delayed language skills.
    Delayed movement skills.
    Delayed cognitive or learning skills.
    Hyperactive, impulsive, and/or inattentive behavior.
    Epilepsy or seizure disorder.
    Unusual eating and sleeping habits.
    Unusual mood or emotional reactions.

  2. Ettina says:

    I’m also autistic. I’m sorry for you, Bryce and Alex, that you’re feeling the negatives more acutely than the positives. I’ve found that it depends on what situation I’m in – when I’m in a context where I’m accepted and have the right support, I see mostly positives, whereas in other situations the negatives affect me more. Instead of judging whether the positives outweigh the negatives, maybe try asking yourself if you can find ways to make the negatives less important and the positives more so. For example, looking for a career that suits you, or a friend group who appreciate your strengths.

  3. Alex says:

    As a man on the spectrum, I cannot agree more with Bryce’s word. There are lots of negatives for having this disorder and the problems lead by this disorder keep changing when aging as well as requiring life-long effort for living with this disorder. The process of adapting to this neurotypical society always accept and learning. This sometimes seems so hopeless for me and the positives listed by professional seems useless because most of them are neurotypical person and they just persuade me to adapt to the world. Doing one thing by yourself is always much much harder than persuading others to do that.

  4. J.Edwards says:

    As a grown adult working in the emergency services I am grateful for this article. It has helped me in creating documentation and legislation in my organisation to support others on the spectrum. In my opinion the attributes of my Asperger’s have pros and cons but my focus is more productive for my mental state when focusing on the pros as a oppose to focusing on the negative. Thank you.

    • Focusing on the negative drains one of energy and motivation and lowers self-esteem. It’s important to look at the positive aspects and there are many. Have a wonderful day and thank you for taking the time to comment.

  5. Bryce. says:

    having said disorder myself. all of these positives cannot nearly make up for the mass amounts of negatives. however, I appreciate this attempt of a “Brighter side”.

  6. Greg Chalmers says:

    Hi there, just wondering how do we reference your blog in an academic paper?

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