Positive Autism Traits
With all the misinformation and stereotypes that exist, too often ‘autism‘ brings about negative connotations. To counter the dumb, I want to bring awareness to some positive autism traits. Is autism a disability and does it make my life harder? Yes. Does autism make relationships and employment difficult to navigate? Yes. Would I choose to not be autistic if I could?
I honestly don’t know how I’d answer that. Maybe it’s just because it’s the only thing I know. Or maybe after 35 years with this autism-ridden brain, my autism is simply too intertwined with the rest of myself to consider what life would be like without it. That being said, if I were presented with the option to throw out my spicy brain, I don’t think I’d take it. I like my brain and that it functions a bit differently than most people’s. So, to help you (or maybe your loved ones) appreciate your spicy self a bit more, read on for some positive autism traits.
Devoted to Details
Autistic people are detail-oriented and thorough. We have a compulsion towards accuracy that makes us want to ensure a job is done right. This attention to detail also means we tend to notice details others miss and often remember small details of an event others don’t. As a result, we’re great at focusing on intricate details, correcting errors, and catching things other people miss.
One of my personal favorite positive autism traits is our ability to hyperfocus. Some of us can switch into hyperfocus relatively easily. Free from distractions, we can focus on a task for hours without losing focus. Unfortunately, some of the distractions we’re freed from are our own bodily functions like eating, drinking, or going to the bathroom. People with ADHD are also prone to hyperfocus beyond bodily sustenance but it’s a bit harder to control. While many autistic people can hyperfocus almost at will, ADHD makes it more difficult. With ADHD, hyperfocus is usually only obtained by focusing on something we’re genuinely interested in or are dopamine-chasing a deadline. As 50%-70% of autistic people also have ADHD, there is a wide range of hyperfocus skills and abilities.
There’s a phrase many autistic people grow up hearing. “You’re like a dog with a bone.” Often misperceived as refusing to let things go but in reality, we simply can’t. We need to understand and answer all of our questions and we are determined to get them. Inundated with sensory overload and frequently accused of overreacting, for many of us, getting out of the house and through the day is one long display of resilience. Because we’re so used to having to push through our own feelings and experiences, many of us are able to withstand a lot more than most people think. This means if we’re determined to do something, it’s going to be incredibly difficult to stop us from doing it.
Our methodical, analytical, detail-absorbing brains make us great at pattern recognition. For some autistic people, this can result in remarkable math or musical abilities. Unfortunately, I have neither of those things. Sure, I can usually recognize songs I know within a few beats but that’s the extent of my abilities. I am, however, the person who gets to constantly badger my loved ones with statements like: “Called it,” “I knew this was going to happen,” and “Dude, I told you.” While we may struggle reading social interactions, we’re great at seeing patterns of behavior. This is a useful skill for surviving as an undiagnosed female trying to skate by socially when your friends keep dating assholes. Of course, it can help in other areas as well like analyzing literature, examining historical events, or beating everyone at card games.
Generally, we’re more ruled by what makes sense to us than what others think of us which can place us outside of society’s norms. Lucky for us (sarcasm), autistic people already tend to live outside of those norms. We don’t fit in with them and if we try to do so for too long, we literally exhaust ourselves. This tends to make us more accepting and welcoming of others who might be a little different also. It’s also probably why so many autistic people identify as LGBTQ+ but that’s another article entirely.
No, I’m not talking about expert crafting skills (although some of us do have those, as well!) I’m talking about finding new approaches to things and encouraging others to do the same. We have very distinctive imaginations that lead to creativity and new expressions of those ideas. Research has found that autistic artists often think outside the box, whereas non-autistics may be too afraid of ridicule to do so. Additionally, autistic people can help other people be more creative. Rather than accepting things because they’ve always been that way, autistic people challenge you to explain why. When you examine why, you often find a new way to approach things. A new approach can lead to deeper understanding and innovation.
Autistic speech is often very blunt. While it can make things difficult socially, it also means you can come to us to tell you the truth. Even if it’s hard to hear, we’ll give you an honest opinion if you ask for it (and sometimes when you don’t. Sorry.) Our honest take on things combined with our pattern recognition gives us a realistic take on things. We won’t be your hype girls but we make loyal friends who will give you honest, realistic, and (sometimes freakishly) accurate advice.
Super Sense of Justice
Sometimes misperceived as a sense of righteousness, (as my soon-to-be husband sometimes calls it) our sense of justice is unmatched. Unbound by social norms, we are more likely to speak up about our beliefs and engage in various forms of activism. Misinformation surrounding autism paints us as unempathetic and unfeeling but that’s because we display and express our emotions differently. Autistic people are more likely to speak up and stand for anyone we see being treated unfairly. Often found rescuing animals in need, taking in stray friends, or over-exerting ourselves helping others, people with autism are determined to right wrongs. And what did I tell you about when we’re determined?
Perpetually Problem Solving
Autistic people have more synapsis in the brain compared to neurotypicals. This means our brains are basically never off. I often refer to it as being “too loud in there” when I’m trying to sleep. This doesn’t necessarily transfer to higher intelligence, it simply means there’s just a lot happening up there. Because our brains are constantly going, we’re able to connect a lot of dots others might not know to connect. This makes us great problem solvers. Admittedly, this can be annoying to our loved ones who just want to vent but if you tell us you don’t want help solving it, we can (usually) resist.
Another positive autism trait is hyperlexia. Hyperlexia is the term for children with unexpected reading abilities advanced beyond their age. This means that many autistic kids, including me, actually teach themselves to read. (Finally- an autistic ability I have!) I am still an avid reader with books being one of my autism collections. Reading expands our knowledge base, helps us learn other perspectives, and can be an escape from a world that often doesn’t quite get us. If you think about it, it’s pretty fascinating that many autistic people have a trait that’s so perfectly suited to feed our innate need for knowledge.
Eagle Eyed Oberservationalists
There’s a quote that makes me laugh with its accuracy about autistic vision.“When a person with autism walks into a room, the first thing they see is a stain on the coffee table and 17 floor boards.” – Elizabeth Milne
Studies have shown that autistic people take in visual stimuli at a faster rate than neurotypical people. Additionally, these studies have found that autistic people score twice as high in visual acuity. Another thing worth noting about autism is that we rely on scripts. As a result, we are constantly observing our surroundings in an attempt to build these scripts. This means we are highly observant people who notice things most don’t. We have a methodical listen, look, and learn approach to things that allows us to gather information before acting. Like vacuums, we observe our situations and suck in all the particle details that add to the other data stored in our head. Many autistic people have fantastic visual recal or even have photographic memories with the ability to recall tiny details.
Autistic people are prone to special interests. While many assume this means an obsession with trains and calendars, special interests are incredibly varied. When we have a special interest, we are consumed by it. A personal example is the movie Newsies. During a school break sometime in middle school, I was stuck at my dad’s and hanging out at a neighbor’s house where I was introduced to Newsies. It was a bit of a slow build but by eighth grade, I watched that movie everyday. Sometimes twice. I memorized the soundtrack and printed out pictures to hang in my room. That much is pretty normal for teenage girls but you know what wasn’t? The amount of time I spent cruising early 2000’s websites about Newsies to the point I created my own. It never took off or anything but the kids at school knew about it and I was aware it was seen as quirky.
Twenty years later and I can still ramble off many of the easter eggs I had listed on that website. While my Newsies expertise is presumably uninteresting to most, I’ve had other special interests since. And, since every autistic person has different interests, this means as a whole we have a vast amount of expertise on many topics, sometimes very obscure ones. This can range from art and literature to physics and math.
Using Your Positive Autism Traits
I hope this list of positive autism traits has been helpful in providing some perspective. Autistic people are not broken or robots. We experience a vast aray of emotions, connections, and interests while perceiving the world a bit differently. It can be exhausting and overwhelming trying to fit in or simply survive in a neurotypical world. Accepting yourself for who you are and learning how to lean into your positive autism traits can be liberating and open new doors. Understanding these things about yourself can also improve your employment opportunities and relationships.You can use this blog to start a conversation with your loved ones about better understanding and accepting your autism. Then come back and tell me how your conversations went and any breakthroughs you had!