5 Positive Things About Being Autistic

When you think of autism, do limitations and impairments come to mind? Unfortunately, the field of psychology has traditionally framed autism as only a disability. Professional descriptions and criteria of autism sadly emphasize what we can’t achieve rather than what we are capable of. Even we on the autism spectrum may also dwell on limitations due to the endless everyday challenges we face. However, research has shown that autism is a complex neurological variation with both strengths and weaknesses. There are plenty of potential benefits that can aid us and others if nurtured in a healthy way.

Here are five positive things about being autistic, written by our autistic specialist writer and based on research into the strengths of autistic minds.

1) We can spot hidden patterns

According to researcher Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen from the University of Cambridge, we are extremely high in a mental trait called “systemizing”. People with this trait are driven to uncover the hidden systems of reality, using focused observation, meticulous experimentation, and the creation of small model examples. Our autistic brains are geared to notice complex and systematic patterns in math, science, music, art, and language that others don’t perceive beyond the surface. For example, one of Baron-Cohen’s autistic patients spent his childhood playtime categorizing thousands of leaves into piles based on their shape and structure. At the time, this was misunderstood as an abnormal and obsessive behavior, but now we know he was engaging in extreme systemizing. Researchers like Baron-Cohen theorize that most of humanity’s greatest discoveries and inventions have been driven by the extreme systemizing trait found in autistic individuals.

2) We are focused on details

Autistic people have especially strong attention to detail. While the social world is messy and unpredictable, concrete facts are reliable and comforting. When something interests us, we can hyperfocus and become highly attuned to particular details. In the past, this was misunderstood as a tendency to get distracted and miss the bigger picture, but now we know this can be an asset. In the right setting, our attention to detail can be applied to benefits like categorizing library books, noticing small print in legal texts or inspecting lines of software code. Some companies have successfully run special programs to employ autistic people in environments that are specifically adapted to our needs and thinking styles. At HP Enterprise, these special teams are thirty percent better at finding faults in software than traditional teams, and it all comes down to our attention to detail.

3) We are perfectly honest

Another striking trait of autistic people is our honesty. Our brains lack the wiring for white lies, manipulation, deception and scheming, so our language and actions are perfectly straightforward. We speak in totally literal and precise ways, and we deal only in straight facts, regardless of social consequences. In the past, our objectivity was misunderstood as a lack of politeness, but now we know that it can achieve goals more effectively. Imagine a friend, partner or employee who can never lie, twist facts, deny problems, spread rumors, take sides or engage in underhanded tactics. If others understand that we have good intentions, our bluntly honest advice and comments can be leveraged to enhance problem-solving.

4) We have a strong sense of justice

The honesty of autistic people also extends to a strong sense of justice. We will pursue fairness, justice and ethics with little concern for personal consequences or social backlash. We are greatly distressed when animals are mistreated, when people are affected by a disaster or when rules are selectively bent to harm or benefit someone. For us, rules and principles are applied consistently, not just when it’s convenient to us, when it benefits those close to us, or when it’s socially acceptable. In the past, our sense of justice was misunderstood as a type of inflexible thinking, but now we know that it can be used to achieve a fairer society. We can excel in careers like teaching, law enforcement or care-giving, where we can apply kindness without any bias or corruption. In other areas, we can also be effective auditors or whistleblowers who value justice over personal reputation.

5) We have a unique perspective

Autistic people are born with minds that don’t absorb the conventions, thought patterns and interests of others. We can feel isolated within our own individual thinking styles. When we try to explain ourselves, we find that language is too limiting and we might even need to invent new words. In the past, this was misunderstood as disordered or schizophrenic thinking, but now we know that our unconventional perspectives can lead to unique insights. We tend to be better at lateral thinking tests, abstract thinking and understanding non-human minds like computers and animals. When it comes to unconventional subject areas, it’s actually very helpful for us to have a totally eccentric way of thinking.

So there you have it, five positive things about being autistic. Like all superpowers, these abilities need to be properly nurtured and applied to appropriate areas so they can flourish. 

Did you learn anything new or surprising in this article? Let us know in the comments below. And don’t forget to like and share this video if it helped you and you think it will help someone else. The studies and references used are listed in the description below. 

References

Attwood, A. (2006). The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Baron-Cohen, S. (2020). The Pattern Seekers: How Autism Drives Human Invention. Basic Books.

Bennett, M., Webster, A. A., Goodall, E., & Rowland, S. (2019). Life on the Autism Spectrum: Translating Myths and Misconceptions into Positive Futures. Springer.

O’Toole, J. C. (2018). Autism in Heels: The Untold Story of a Female Life on the Spectrum. Simon and Schuster.

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