What would happen if the autism gene was eliminated from the gene pool? You would have a bunch of people standing around in a cave, chatting and socializing and not getting anything done.
–––Temple Grandin, The Way I See It: A Personal Look at Autism and Asperger’s
Albert Einstein was non-verbal until age four. Nikola Tesla had an extreme sensitivity to lights and sounds. Charles Darwin was known to avoid social contact at all costs. Besides the fact that each of these individuals changed our world with their discoveries and theories, what they also have in common are traits associated with autism.
Because people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) usually struggle with social interactions and sometimes display unusual behavior, the general public sees this difference as a “disability.”
While we cannot downplay the challenges those with ASD may have, there are some traits associated with ASD that champions the idea that those with ASD are not disabled, but “other-abled.”
The Spectrum, an ASD advocacy nonprofit group, describes those with ASD as very focused and tenacious about their interests. As socializing tends not to be a priority and thus, not a distraction, this focus may lead to some great things such as:
- Excelling in a chosen area of study or career
- Noticing details that others miss
- Having an Increased empathy or immense care for people or animals
- Enjoying working independently
Our society tends to think that any difference in our “wiring” translates into “less”, as in less intelligence or less accomplishments. That is very far from the truth with ASD. As we can see from modern examples of those who have been diagnosed with ASD -- two-time Best Actor Academy Award winner Sir Anthony Hopkins; Astronomer Carl Sagan; Singer Susan Boyle; and Noble Prize Winning Economist Dr. Vernon Smith --- ASD not only did not get in their way, but most likely paved the way to their accomplishments and success.
It is important to remember that sometimes things need to be looked at differently to be changed, enhanced, perfected or discovered. As we can see by the gifts our civilization has received due to those who see things differently, ASD has played an important role.