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Autistic Strengths

Autism is defined in terms of challenges, but can also be associated with strengths.
Figure pulling on two chains
© University of Bath

The diagnosis of autism focuses upon challenges that can be experienced by autistic people. However, it is important to remember that we all differ, including people who may be autistic, and it is common for autistic people to excel at certain activities and have many strengths.

This is not to suggest that all autistic people have a savant-like superability (as in the film Rain Man). Rather, some cognitive strengths tend to be more prevalent in the autism community. A worldwide survey of over 200 autism experts identified the following list of autistic strengths:

  • Attention to detail
  • Strong sense of morality (eg honesty, lack of judgmental attitude, etc)
  • A preference to work on repeated or monotonous tasks
  • Expertise in a specific area
  • Mathematical abilities
  • Creative talents (eg look at the world differently)
  • Artistic skills (eg music, drawing, visual arts)
  • Visual perception
  • Intellectual functions
  • Technical abilities (computer skills, engineering)
  • Trustworthiness
  • Loyalty
  • Kindness
  • Good memory

Such a list is clearly general (for example not all aspects of memory are good in autistic people) and not all autistic people will have all these strengths. However this list highlights that many skills and abilities, as well as character strengths, can be associated with autism. Developing a better understanding of autistic strengths underpins Autistica’s Action Briefing on strengths-based approaches. Their quote highlights the issue:

“It is a serious problem that many individuals on the spectrum grow up regularly hearing about what their problems are. It can have a detrimental effect on how they see themselves. Using a strengths-based approach from the outset, so they also understand that they have amazing strengths, would help to give them a much more balanced outlook.”
© University of Bath
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