Welcome to the second part of the seven-part series focused around Autism Awareness Week where we shall dedicated our time and words to raising awareness of well… autism.
“Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impaired social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication, and restricted and repetitive behaviour”.
That is the opening sentence to Wikipedia’s autism page. Now imagine you are an autism novice and that was your introduction to autism. Does that description sound encouraging to you? Now, imagine you’re a parent of a young child who you think may have an autistic condition. Would that leave you feeling encouraged about your child’s future and the life they have to face?
See, the funny thing, it’s not untrue. Autism does affect the way people communicate with others. And there are aspects of the condition that you’re always going to have difficulty getting your head around. But if you spend most of your time fixating on the oddities – and yes, I am being coy about the word ‘negatives’ – then you’ll have a fair bit of trouble seeing autism as anything but. And that can be really damaging to a kid’s self-esteem, feeling like there’s something wrong with them.
But that doesn’t have to be the case. Autism comes with several characteristics that could be quite beneficial in the right circumstances.
Now I am NOT saying that every autistic on planet has these traits. I want to make that crystal clear before we get any further. Also, these traits are do NOT make you Superman (sadly), but it does mean you have some talents that may be more hidden than others. And to my lasting regret, flying is not one of them.
Some notable positives of the autism spectrum include:
Extensive Memory – Everyone always has that moment when they’re looking back on a past experience and their mind’s a blank. Not the case for some autistics, who can look back on key memories harkening back years and able to remember every manageable detail, from the location to what was said, to how they felt, right down to that irritating itch they wanted to scratch. If some autistics have seen a film or TV show that they have enjoyed repeatedly, they may be able to recite that word-for-word. Sometimes, that level of detail is down to having a photographic memory, able to vizualise anything you’ve laid eyes on, turning your eye – and arguably your brain – into a human camera. In the most extreme cases, autistics can in minute details within a fraction of a second.
Skillful in Key Areas – A lot of autistics will have interests in specialist subjects, borderlining on what some may consider ‘intense’ or ‘obsessive’, but this also gives them the benefit of having an in-depth knowledge of said subject, able to recite even the most intrinsic detail from memory alone. For example, if you have someone who’s interested in trains, chances are, that person is going to be alarmingly well-versed in the terminology, the tech, pretty much everything surrounding it. If that interest happened to be linked to a profession, autistic people can really excel in a job. Autistics pursue their interests with a heightened degree of passion. Imagine what an asset that autistic could be in the world of work. I would like to say I was an expert on trains, but I don’t think Thomas the Tank Engine really counts…
Mathematical Prowess – Now this is very much a half-and-half trait. Some autistics can be very highly acute when it comes to numbers, able to do complicated sums in their head without the use of a calculator. In some cases, people with extreme cases of autism – sometimes with savant syndrome – can do sums beyond the calculator. But as mentioned, this is only in particular cases where people are on the extreme end of the autism spectrum. For those who are high-functioning, it’s not always likely. I can attest to that. WHY HAVE YOU CURSED ME TO BE MATHEMATICALLY INFERIOR, GOD!? WHY MUST I GO THROUGH LIFE ELUDED BY PRIME NUMBERS!?
…OK, rant over. Moving on…
Well-Organized – As said before, the world can be an unfamiliar place to autistic people. As such, the best way through that is to cloak yourself in familiar routines. Some people with autism can be organized to the point of meticulousness. Time management can be second-to-none, never settling for a few minutes after o’clock. Some people are very detail-oriented have a mental checklist of what they need and what to do, and in keeping to that routine, with precision as sharp as a scalpel.
Adherence to Rules and Regulations – Now, this not so much a skillset – I’m still yearning for the days when Rule-Breaking can be considered a qualification – as it is a personality trait, but it is a positive one nonetheless. If there is a series of written guidelines, then an autistic may feel comfortable in following those guidelines to the letter. If only for peace of mind, autistic people incorporate guidelines into the overall structure of their day-to-day life.
Honest Demeanour – Again, this is more down to personality than skill. Some autistic people tend to take the world as it is, or as they see it. And this extends to lying… or doesn’t, depending on how you want to look at it. Autistic people can be quite uncomfortable with lying and sometimes, incapable of deception, instead going for the honest truth, sometimes delivered with the bluntness of a hammer. With that type of autistic, you’ll know where you stand with them. It’s a good characteristic… unless you’re asking for a critique on your cooking, in which case…
Now, to reiterate my earlier point, not every individual with autism has these traits. The way autism affects people varies every time. And not everyone comes into theYou will never meet a person who fits the typical autism standard.
There isn’t one.
But these are traits that autistics have the capacity to develop if given the right environment to do so. People on the spectrum need to be supported from an early age by parents, teachers, employers, people who are willing to try to understand them in order to help them understand themselves and what they are capable of. If autistic children, young adults, even adults – it’s never too late to learn – are shown that what they have is an uncanny quality, and are encouraged to pursue those qualities, nurtured so that when they grow up, they can lead fulfilling lives just like everyone else. For all we know, we could be developing our future Einstein’s and Galileo’s.
I mean, Einstein was rumoured to be on the spectrum. And he certainly wasn’t lacking in the brain department…
If you enjoyed this blog, check out the other articles in the Autism Awareness Week series!
(DISCLAIMER: I do not own any pictorial content depicted on the blog. It is the property of Cyndi McCoy)