People tend to focus on the negative aspects of autism, but there are also many positive features.
Although the autism community tends to talk more about the benefits of autism, the general public is often only privy to a fairly negative narrative. There are certainly a lot of difficulties that come along with being autistic, I know this as well as anyone, but I also think there are a lot of benefits that get overlooked.
I can’t speak for everyone, but at least for myself, I don’t think I would change being autistic. Not only because of the impossibility of separating myself from my autism (we are one in the same), but also on the basis that I like being autistic. I may not always like every aspect of autism, but I wouldn’t be willing to give up the benefits to get rid of the hardships.
So, I decided to write a list of some of the best parts of autism, to relate to my neurodivergent readers and enlighten my neurotypical ones:
Many autistic people are known for their intense honesty. I also exhibit this trait and was often known for being “brutally honest” as a child. Although my honesty sometimes got me into embarrassing situations, when someone asked me how I felt, they didn’t have to do any guessing. There was no question if I was a friend because I lack the capacity for hidden agendas. In my opinion, honesty is what lays the foundation for trust. If everyone were more honest, I think the world would be a better, more trusting place to live.
Although sometimes, as autistics, our special interests can become overly consuming, most of the time they are a spectacular trait. We are able to focus in on a topic with abundant passion and fascination, learning exceptional amounts of information and often wanting to share our knowledge with anyone that will listen.
I have had many special interests throughout my 22 years, and autism is currently one of them, hence my blog. I think my ability to not only amass so much information about autism, but my love for sharing what I know with others is a very special thing and something to be proud of.
3. Unique Affinity for Animals
Many autistics find animal relationships to be effortless, especially in comparison to their relationships with neurotypicals. I think a lot of this is probably based on our remarkable ability to communicate with animals nonverbally, in a way that often does not come as naturally to neurotypicals.
I have always been an animal lover and have had very close bonds with my dogs. My first dog was named Tad Pole, and he truly was my best friend growing up. Being able to have such a strong bond with a dog is something I am really grateful for.
4. Above Average Emotional Empathy
Although psychology has long thought autism to be correlated with generally low empathy levels, recent research has pointed towards the contrary. I, and many other autistics, have above average emotional empathy and below average cognitive empathy (you can read more about this on my blog post, Autism and Empathy). I think this makes a lot of sense considering our often uniquely deep bonds with animals, as discussed above.
Having high levels of empathy can be exhausting, especially in a year like 2020, but it is also what lets people connect with each other. I would like to be a physician someday and I think my high level of emotional empathy will be a positive attribute. I also think my low cognitive empathy has benefits too. Because I don’t always pick up on how someone is feeling, I don’t make assumptions. Instead, I always ask. The way people exhibit their emotions varies among cultures and individuals, but by always asking, my ability to empathize with future patients doesn’t have to.
5. Uncommon Sensory Awareness
Many autistics tend to experience sensory stimuli more intensely than neurotypical people. This can make certain aspects of life really hard to tolerate, such as food, clothing, and shopping. The sounds are louder, the lights brighter, and the textures more intense for us. Despite this, I think we often see more beauty in the everyday than most people. Even though the grocery store can be overwhelming, I get to experience the colors of a sunset more intensely than neurotypicals.
One of my favorite textures is moss. I enjoy hiking and my friends and family who have hiked with me know I never finish a hike through the woods without running my fingers across soft, green, plush moss. Sometimes I pity neurotypicals for not knowing the euphoria I get from moss.
Autistics see the world differently and bring unique perspectives to every problem they’re presented with. Sometimes the different modes of thought between neurotypicals and autistics can lead to frustration for both parties. But, it can also lead to new ideas and innovations. Our ability to conjure up alternative solutions to problems makes us a valuable asset to society.
7. Impressive Memory
Autistics often have noteable memories, perfect for compiling massive amounts of information about our special interests. This year I have been struggling with mine as a consequence of a year filled with hardships. But, under normal circumstances, my memory is what has allowed me to do well in school. It helps me make connections between a wide variety of topics I’ve learned about. It also played a key role in my success in Ethics Bowl, as you can see in my picture above.
8. Strong Sense of Justice
Many autistics have a strong sense of right and wrong. I think this is what attracted me to Ethics Bowl in the first place. Some people might say our sense of justice is too black and white, and in some cases that may be true, but I think most of the time we are just very dedicated to logical explanations of justice. We are less likely than neurotypicals to partake in an immoral action just to benefit ourselves. Autistic Science Person wrote a really great blog on this topic titled, Autistic People Care Too Much, Research Says.
Many autistics are very routine driven and while sometimes this can give us anxiety when forced to break a routine, there are benefits too. My love for routines makes me a very punctual and dependable person. I am not one to be a “no-show”, whether for work or friends. If I tell you I’m going to be there, I will be.
10. Oblivious to Peer Pressure
Like many autistics, I don’t always pick up on certain social cues. And while this can be frustrating, it can also be freeing. I’m not a very materialistic person because I genuinely couldn’t care less about whether something is name brand or if I got it second-hand. I wear what I want to wear, even if its not considered “on trend”. I have my own interests, even if they aren’t relatable to my peers. I do what I want to do, even if some people might think I’m “weird” or “intense”.
This list isn’t comprehensive and each autistic person is an individual with their own unique strengths and weaknesses. But, I do hope that this list provides people with a broader view of autism. Neurotypicals are defined by both their weaknesses and their strengths. I think autistics deserve to be too.