Autism is a Superpower
“ Why fit in when you were born to stand out” goes a quote by Dr. Seuss. Unique, different, rare, or neurodivergent - Autism truly is a puzzle. Unfortunately, most of us are too naïve to see a clinically diagnosed mental illness as a gift or 'superpower'.
As mental health practitioners in India , we come across cases of Autism where the parents start blaming each other or the child when a diagnosis of Autism is made. The shame and stigma around the diagnosis of a mental illness often blindfold them to the perspective that the Autistic mind just functions differently and can actually have innate clusters of skills.
As research on Autism grows, it is now possible to identify the differences between a normal or neurotypical brain and a neurodivergent brain like Autism or ADHD ( Attention Deficit Hyperkinetic Disorder) . These differences range from the identification of colours to the perception of music, architecture, and numbers. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that the “ Autistic brain” may actually give us a new perspective on art, music, technology, and architecture.
But does the gift of Autism end there?
'Savant Syndrome' is a rare form of high functioning Autism that brings about even rarer gifts like child prodigies adept in the skills of music, art, rote learning, calculation, and other higher functions. Savants are gifted, unique, one in a million - just another example of how the Autistic brain can actually be a superpower.
Contrary to popular opinion, autistic children are not dummies- their brains just function differently. So while an autistic child in school may not make eye contact with peers, they may quite well excel ( and perform better than their peer group) at computers, tech, physics, and other subjects.
70% of autistic children and adults were found to have 'special isolated skill' in domains of memory, visuospatial abilities, calculation, drawing, or music in a recent study. As research has found, autistic social and communication difficulties appear to result from impaired “theory of mind”. The absence and defects in the field of 'intuitive thinking' in autism may also contribute to talent. People with autism are less prone to herd thinking, and more able to take original or innovative perspectives- a prerequisite for creative fields.
Genetics further add value to the connection between Autism and creativity. It is seen that genes for talent and Autism overlap and thus these common alleles have been positively selected during human evolution.
The power of repetition, eye to detail, and a unique perspective give the autistic brain a unique superpower- the art of perfection by practice. As an employee, the autistic worker is detailed, meticulous, precise, and immune to fatigue or boredom.
Just Google “ Famous Autistic Persons “ and some of the names in the list may actually shock you for they are people would look up to or emulate and consider 'conventionally' successful.
Parenting and the school environment play a huge role in bringing out an autistic child's hidden superpower and unearthing their secret skills. Days are not far when we'll get parents in the OPDs who ask “ What is my Autistic child's superpower?” instead of asking “Why does my child have Autism?”
Image credits: Freepik