A professor of psychiatry believes that we should stop viewing autism as a “defect”. Instead, he points out that autism can be an advantage, (in the right environments). His viewpoint echos those of others, who see autism as “different”, but not as something that should be corrected.
Dr. Laurent Mottron is a professor of psychiatry at the University of Montreal. He believes that when researchers focus on the difference between a person who has autism and a “neurotypical” person as defects, they end up not fully understanding the condition of autism.
For example, researchers sometimes use brain scans to learn how the brain of an autistic person is functioning. People who have autism tend to have different areas of brain activation appear on these scans than do people who do not have an autism spectrum disorder. Researchers tend to view these differences as “deficits”, instead of “an alternative, yet sometimes successful, brain organization”.
This sentiment is echoed by other people who feel that autism is not something that needs to be “cured”. In the right environment, people who have an autism spectrum disorder actually have some advantages over people who are “neurotypical”.
There is research that shows that people who have autism frequently outperform those who do not have autism in auditory tasks, visual tasks, and on non-verbal tests of intelligence. A study showed that people who had autism completed a test that involved correctly finishing a visual pattern 40% faster than people who did not have autism.
Parents of kids who have autism may have noticed this type of thing happening with their children. My brother, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, was fantastically good at correctly completing the patterns in video games. He did this faster, and more accurately, than the rest of the family could ever hope to do. Perhaps we should start seeing the advantages of autism, (instead of only seeing the problematic symptoms).
This viewpoint doesn’t mean that we all suddenly stop providing assistance for people who have autism. Kids with autism are still going to need certain kinds of therapy in order to help them to do well in school and society. It simply means that we should recognize and acknowledge some of the advantages of having autism, too.
For example, my brother works for a shipping company. His uses his ability to sort out numeric patterns at his job. He is quicker, and more accurate, at sorting than everyone else. Yes, he still lives with his parents. But, that doesn’t mean that his autism spectrum disorder puts him entirely at a disadvantage in all situations.
Image by BLW Photography on Flickr