I’ve written a lot about struggles in autism. Those are ever present and they are real. Something perhaps less understood are some of the strengths or good traits often found among autistic people.
Powers of observation and pattern recognition are very strongly oriented toward details in many autistic people. Neurotypical/average everyday people tend to see the big picture immediately and to add details once they perceive the concept. Autistic people tend to focus on the details and add them together to build the entire picture from assembling the details. This probably takes longer in most cases, but knowledge gained seems to be in depth and thorough. In this, we are able to spot things that ordinarily might be missed. Troubleshooting of all sorts is appealing because it involves solving a puzzle. Most of us are inordinately curious. “Why” is almost a mantra for most of us. We want to pick things apart and understand the least/smallest things about them. Many autistic people love the challenge of sorting out problems. Many of us have excellent long term memories, many are able to visualize concepts in a very detailed way. We also are known for our “perseveration” which can translate several ways… continual interest in something, continual ‘working it over in the mind’ on issues long since past and over, and in super ability to focus on one task and stubbornly follow the course set ( our son says I am willful) until the goal is accomplished. Indeed we can be extremely single minded over ideas and perceptions. This is not to say that all of us (autistic folk) are like this. Some of us do not have a single one of these traits (gifts, or curses). I am not able to visualize a thing, for example. We might make excellent researchers, engineers, IT workers…librarians, accountants, math related, mechanics, electricians, any place detailed analysis of anything is needed, autistic attention to detail pays off.
Most autistic folk are extremely compassionate and care deeply. This seems to fly in the face of the autistic stereotype often discussed as unemotional and cold, unresponsive to others needs and uncaring. The stereotype is simply not true! The problem lies in perception of emotional issues and perspectives… if we do not perceive distress in others we do not react to it. If it is explained why distress is experienced or pointed out that a person is upset or emotionally hurting, many autistic persons will feel very deep emotions and empathy/sympathy. We often do not show our emotions, we are simply not ‘wired’ to make emotional displays under most circumstances. This seems to be something that comes naturally and spontaneously to neurotypical people.
Because we may not show/express our emotions on the outside, it does not mean we do not feel them within. Autistic people can feel quite passionately about today’s issues and will persist in championing a cause with heart and soul.
For many autistic people, reason and facts dominate emotion. This means we may not respond in the usual emotional (distressed, panic, fear,anger, dismay) fashion under stressful conditions, such as emergencies- fire, accidents, injuries, crisis situations. We may be able to more quickly see the details in what has happened and what needs to be carried out immediately without the spontaneous emotional response typical in the average population. For this reason we may make good workers in the medical professions, especially rescue and emergency doctors, nurses, EMTs, fireman, etc. .
Again I would like to emphasize that these traits are not common to all autistic people, just as traits, skills, gifts, or abilities of any person will vary, so do those of autistic people.