Autism can bring extra abilities and now we’re finding out why | Artificial Intelligence

Many strengths and difficulties associated with autism stem from the same thing, says Anna Remington, who researches questions autistic people are asking

Remington

“If you speak to autistic people, they will say you can’t be a little bit autistic”

Liz Hingley

WE HAVE been looking at autism all wrong, says Anna Remington. Our understanding of the condition has been skewed by an overly medical focus that classes any differences as impairments, she says, when in fact they could just represent diversity.

Remington is head of the Centre for Research in Autism and Education at University College London , which tries to involve autistic people at every level in directing research and interpreting the results. “We ask autistic people ‘what should we be researching?’” she says. “Maybe surprisingly, it’s not the genetic research, it’s more about practical solutions like how do we improve employment rates?” Her own work focuses on autistic strengths, and her team is starting to uncover what underpins some of these abilities with a view to increasing employment opportunities for autistic people.

What kinds of abilities do autistic people have?

First of all, I just want to give a disclaimer that there’s so much diversity within the autism community. We have to remember that every autistic person is an individual.

Having said that, a lot of autistic people are good at digesting a lot of information, or learning a lot of information about a certain topic. They are very focused. Also, autistic people are often really creative and can provide a solution that has not been thought of before.

Do we know what’s behind any of these abilities?

One clue comes from looking at attention and perception. Autistic people often do better than non-autistic people on auditory …

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