Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder often seen by the uninformed as a roadblock to independence. While it may be easier to see the challenges associated with a diagnosis of ASD, there are many hidden strengths of autism that you may not know – in fact, people on the spectrum excel at many things that neurotypical people don’t.
ABA Centers of Florida understands that exploring these strengths is an integral step toward removing stereotypes associated with the disorder. To keep you informed, we’ve compiled our top five hidden strengths of autism that highlight the positives rather than the deficits.
Hidden Strengths of Autism
1. Enhanced Focus – People on the spectrum may be more able to focus on one task at a time or multitask productively. This strength bodes well in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, where multitasking is often necessary. A study by the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders found that students with autism declare majors in science, technology, engineering, and math more often than neurotypical students, even though the rate at which they attend college is much lower. The unique perspectives of those with ASD work well in these fields, where they can find innovative and analytical solutions to problems that may not be clear to the typical student.
Several innovative figures throughout history are associated with the potential of having autism, such as Albert Einstein, Alan Turing, and Henry Cavendish. While autism was certainly not a household term or even studied to a full extent when these individuals made their careers, several scientists and researchers claim they may have had Asperger’s Syndrome. They seem to meet much of the criteria of autism within the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5).
Still, accurately diagnosing these individuals today is nearly impossible. If they were to have been on the spectrum, it would show the true wonders that such minds can tap into (the discovery of hydrogen, cracking the Enigma Code, and creating the theory of relativity, as just a few examples).
2. Imagination and Creativity – People with autism spectrum disorder commonly view the world in a way that neurotypical people don’t. The enhanced level of focus and increased concentration skills in individuals on the spectrum often lead them to enjoy activities of such nature, like puzzles, video games, and creative outlets such as music and other forms of imagination. There is no denying that creativity is the backbone of innovation, and this unique look at problem-solving and ingenuity can lead to some substantial creations. Another historical figure thought to have been on the spectrum is Mozart, arguably the most prolific music composer in history.
Another study by The Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders found a strong link between autism and creativity. The study indicated that those with ASD exhibit far more “divergent thinking” than neurotypical people. Often referred to as lateral thinking, divergent thinking is the creation of multiple unique solutions to a problem through spontaneity, free flow thought, and other non-linear processes.
3. Superior Recall and Memory Abilities – Several studies have found that individuals with ASD often display superior recall, pattern, and memory capabilities. As developed by clinical psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen, the concept of pattern is related to the concept of systemizing. According to a study by the National Library of Medicine, systemizing relates to the drive to observe, analyze, or construct rule-based systems that function in an “if-then” manner. Research finds that systemizing can generally be considered one component of high and human-evolved intelligence and is something individuals with ASD seem to display often.
These recall and memory abilities can vary in subject and are different for many people with autism. A great modern example of these capabilities is the TikTok channel @mybrothermax, where the account admin, Jake, documents the life of his brother Max who is on the spectrum. In several videos, a stranger can reveal their birthday to Max, and Max can accurately determine the day of the week they were born within seconds. Perhaps the most impressive part of this channel is that Max’s recall ability requires minimal focus or attention. Instead, he can conjure up these dates as if it’s second nature.
4. Eagerness, Honesty, and Work Ethic – An unfortunate reality in the workplace is that very few people with autism are employed, even though they may want to be. Some research shows that only 15% of people with ASD are employed. However, the reality is that people with autism have many employment-related strengths that should be recognized and valued. Many of these strengths identified in studies include cognitive advantages such as superior creativity, focus, and memory, as well as increased efficiency and personal qualities such as honesty and dedication.
These statistics play a significant role in enforcing the idea that empowering the autism narrative is crucial in removing stereotypes, especially in the workplace. Individuals on the spectrum often feel like they are “less than” their neurotypical colleagues when in reality, they should be able to realize that their different methods of thinking are beneficial and essential for employers of any kind.
5. Enthusiasm and Intense Passion – Many studies indicate substantial benefits of special interests in autism. Historically referred to as circumscribed interests, these intractable behaviors fall under the diagnostic criteria of “restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests or activities.” These interests exist in 75–95% of people with autism, ranging from special-interest topics to quirky fascinations.
Once viewed as challenging behavior, research now indicates that unique patterns, such as the intensity at which people with autism display their interests are valuable to people on the spectrum. Studies suggest that these interests and passions can help autistic children gain social skills while building self-confidence and coping with emotions. Socially speaking, a person on the spectrum may open up more when discussing a specific interest and will show great enthusiasm when doing so. Whether it’s a way to bond with others or retain a firmer belief of self-worth, these circumscribed interests work wonders in the autism world.
ABA Therapy Allows People on the Spectrum to Thrive
Every person with autism has different strengths and needs. Required services and accommodations can vary from individual to individual, so it is essential to know these strengths to find activities and careers in which people with ASD will thrive.
This notion makes Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy a vital component in treating autism spectrum disorder. Adhering to specific hidden strengths of autism is required for proper treatment, and by doing so, individuals on the spectrum can thrive as they progress through life.
ABA Centers of Florida Helps Individuals Realize Their Strengths
ABA Centers of Florida doesn’t believe in a “one size fits all” treatment program. We help people with autism utilize their strengths. Each ABA Therapy treatment plan is personalized and includes goals important to the individual and their families. This way, a child with ASD can receive the tailored support they require, achieve their goals, and reach their full potential.
Contact us for a free consultation or additional questions regarding our ABA Therapy services!