Although many believe that people with autism are either anti-social or geniuses, research has found that even “low-functioning” people with autism could be smarter than neurotypical people in certain ways, according to The Atlantic.
Lauren Mottoron, a University of Montreal psychiatrist who has studied autism for many years, found from her analysis that autistic brains seek out information it “prefers” to process while ignoring information that it does not like. Mottron says that autistic brains might be better able to understand patterns or numbers.
Mottron found that those with autism concentrate more on visual processing and less on planning and impulse control, which is why autistic people are up to 40 percent faster at solving problems.
Mottron used a test called Raven’s Standard Progressive matrices on his autistic subjects. The test relies on visual pattern recognition. Mottron says that “autistics are perceptual experts. They are superior to us in processing complex pattern.”
Mottron also discovered that autistic people have both excellent long-term memories and very detailed memories.
A paper published in the August 2015 Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders found that when both highly autistic and neurotypical people were asked to think of non-obvious uses for a brick and paper clip, autistic people didn’t produce many answers, but the answers they did produce were highly unusual. This is a strong indicator of creative thinking. In contrast, neurotypical people would think of more basic answers and afterward move on to innovative uses.
“Most people focus on one property of the object and do associations with that,” Catherine Best, health researcher at the University of Stirling said. “They might say, ‘Oh, it's like a piece of wire. What else can you do with wire?’ People with autistic traits skip to the more difficult stuff.”
This research signals that educators may need to reshape the way they prepare autistic children for the world.
“I no longer believe that intellectual disability is intrinsic to autism,” Mottron said.