October 24, 2021

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Autism Strengths: Harnessing Your Child’s Qualities

Empathy asks us to put ourselves in the shoes of someone else. In the autistic child’s shoes, what would it sense like to kind the word “autism” into a research engine and see how you are defined in phrases of decificts, impairments, and challenges…?

The very first words and phrases that popped up on my screen when I searched the phrase have been “serious”, “disorder”, “impairment”, and “significant challenges”. Even though it would be unfair to dismiss these descriptions, specially as it might be the truth of several mothers and fathers with youngsters needing significant assistance, potentially it’s time to make absolutely sure that when the term is typed into a lookup engine, autism strengths element prominently, way too.

When I scrolled down to the bottom of my monitor, I did discover a lone encouraging outcome clarifying that autism should not be equated with ailment, but rather a otherwise wired mind or way of contemplating. To assist autistic kids thrive, far more than an acknowledgement of distinction is required, they need to be acknowledged and celebrated to come to feel valued. 

I desired to hear from a person with substantial expertise assisting young ones on the spectrum. Karla Pretorius and Nanette Botha, Founders of AIMS Global, have been functioning in the industry of autism due to the fact 2004. Dad and mom normally want treatment for their autistic youngster to deal with behavior or modify weaknesses, but often therapists are in the finest (objective!) position to recognize the strengths of the youngster, as well.

When I asked Karla, who has a Master’s degree in Psychology, about strengths in little ones with autism, primarily the young children that she’s worked with, she said: “From my many many years of performing with autistic young children, I have not only seen their extra clear strengths, these kinds of as their potential to keep in mind pertinent aspects of an function or scene, their absolute honesty, and their sheer joy in their precise passions, but also their resolve and resilience. Although we are doing the job in the direction of acceptance, somewhat than mere awareness as a inhabitants embracing big difference, we are not there yet. This sales opportunities to our autistic little ones needing to adapt, often adjust, and most of the time take that the entire world is not often autism-welcoming.” 

Power on a spectrum

The Diagnostic and Statistical Handbook of Mental Issues (5th ed. DSM–5 American Psychiatric Association, 2013) is made use of by clinicians to diagnose autism spectrum issues according to the manual’s diagnostic criteria. The symptoms and symptoms listed in the DSM–5 are observed in the locations of social, language, and communication skills, and repetitive/restricted behaviors or interests.

The DSM–5 diagnostic conditions could be open up to discussion, but the conditions (particularly the inclusion of sensory troubles and other unique issues) has value in facilitating the diagnostic method, significantly for less expert evaluators. But what about a listing of autism strengths? Razor sharp notice to detail, extraordinary lengthy-expression memory, knowledge and target in locations of specific interest, and in some cases even savantism—where a unique talent of the autistic brain exceeds the bounds of what we deem humanly attainable.

In advocating for a lot more acknowledgement of autism strengths, the fact and seriousness of the condition must not be minimized. Mothers and fathers sharing heartache on on the web autism forums (generally anonymously), convey their aggravation and anger when only the genius side, the quirky but amazing deal with of autism is portrayed by the media. For mom and dad who deal with an autistic little one who demands a large degree of assist, this portrayal mocks their fact.

Their reality may well entail issues with verbal and nonverbal language, and issue with speech to the diploma that the youngster continues to be nonvocal prolonged term. Selection generating difficulties, difficulties with viewing the major photo, learning difficulties, and depth fixation may perhaps interfere with the child’s day to day working and psychological improvement.

Mom and dad with large desires small children have to have acknowledgement for the treatment they provide in normally tough conditions. This does not signify they are not also the largest cheerleaders when it will come to letting the globe know about the incredible strengths and competencies of their youngsters.

Autism is a spectrum problem, and media portrayal wants to replicate this truth. A preverbal autistic kid who demands regular treatment deserves to be included in how we see and worth autism as much as the autistic genius with savant techniques. Potentially when we ignore about our preconceived Sheldon Cooper-esque notion of autism, and put ourselves in the sneakers of an individual on the spectrum, we’ll start out to see their real autism strengths.

A in different ways wired brain 

A evaluate post (Donovan & Basson, 2016) inspecting the neuroanatomy of autism from a developmental standpoint, established out to take a look at findings—mostly results which have been replicated in more research. One particular this kind of acquiring, that may possibly illustrate the neuroanatomical big difference amongst people with autism and neurotypical individuals, is the inclination of overgrowth of the frontal cortex that might arise early in daily life. The overview concluded that (in-maintaining with mounting proof) the trajectory of mind expansion is various in people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). 

Taking into consideration evidence of just how various the mind of an autistic individual may be, and how otherwise it develops, are we comparing apples and oranges when we measure autistic strengths (and even weaknesses) in neurotypical terms? Most likely completely different approaches of searching at strengths and weaknesses which accounts for neurodiversity is not feasible or potentially even desirable.

Probably it doesn’t even make a difference whether or not a strength or deficit is described as this kind of by neurotypical or neurodivergent requirements, what issues is that an autistic little one feels valued, confident in his/her one of a kind strengths and contributions to the environment, with as a lot regulate as is possible more than his/her atmosphere.

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Toughness or weak spot?

We want to shift absent from concentrating on deficits in autism, we want to embrace neurodiversity and the concept that we can all learn from and see benefit in distinctive minds. We really should rejoice the strengths of the neurodivergent mind and admit that special strategies of pondering and undertaking are dependable for a whole lot of development in the entire world. But is it doable to independent deficits and strengths in ASD, or are the two interchangeably linked relying on context?

A examine (Russell et al., 2018) delivers some guidance about autism strengths and weaknesses, and it’s useful since it shares the views of individuals who are in fact on the spectrum. Success from the study recommend that a characteristic like hypersensitivity could be a toughness or weakness relying on the context. 

The examine (Russell et al., 2018) takes advantage of the instance of hypersensitivity by conveying that a man or woman may look at this attribute as a energy as it leads to satisfaction of nature, but on a chaotic street it could be regarded a weak spot if it tends to make it tough to cope. 

The examine brings up an intriguing discussion relating to so-named weaknesses in grown ups and young children with autism—what if the youngster obtained treatment for hypersensitivity and shed this means, which may well well have been a energy in a particular context?

Interestingly when contributors in this review (Russell et al., 2018) had been requested about their skills, the qualities that autistic individuals thought of to be most helpful have been: hyper concentration, consideration to detail, excellent memory, and creative imagination.

Autism strengths

It is apparent that we need more investigate, not only to ascertain whether deficits in autism are most likely strengths in a unique context, but we also need unique techniques of assessment to explore autism strengths. For case in point, several small children with autism are visible learners but most common academic schooling depends on auditory instruction. Consequently, is it even attainable to accurately measure strengths like intelligence and creativity in settings exactly where the odds are stacked versus a neurodivergent intellect?

These questions require to be answered not only to dispel damaging sights of neurodiversity, but additional importantly, a energy concentrated method could help autistic children prosper when they transition to adulthood. A lot of mothers and fathers are in a position to determine expertise and skills in their small children by way of their distinctive passions, afterall that which passions us (and that we expend a great deal of time on), generally will become our most important ability.

The require for energy-centered intervention for autistic adolescents as they put together for the changeover to adulthood, was examined in a examine (Warren et al., 2021) where mothers and fathers discovered the strengths of their small children. Strengths like intelligence and creativeness had been recognized by mother and father when talking about their autistic children. The authors sense it’s essential to establish and guidance this sort of strengths to assistance autistic small children to put together for adulthood.

As investigation teaches us a lot more about the special abilities and strengths of the autistic mind, ideally pinpointing these characteristics will assist little ones on the spectrum experience more valued in neurotypical society. If a child feels valued, his/her distinctive set of abilities may well glow. Or in the words and phrases of creator and speaker Paul Isaacs: “Do not panic individuals with autism, embrace them. Do not spite persons with autism, unite them. Do not deny people today with autism, take them, for then their capabilities will shine.”

References:

American Psychiatric Affiliation. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of psychological problems (5th ed.). https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.publications.9780890425596

Donovan, A. P., & Basson, M. A. (2017). The neuroanatomy of autism – a developmental viewpoint. Journal of anatomy, 230(1), 4–15. https://doi.org/10.1111/joa.12542

Russell, G., Kapp, S. K., Elliott, D., Elphick, C., Gwernan-Jones, R., & Owens, C. (2019). Mapping the Autistic Edge from the Accounts of Older people Diagnosed with Autism: A Qualitative Review. Autism in adulthood : difficulties and management, 1(2), 124–133. https://doi.org/10.1089/aut.2018.0035

Sheldon Cooper, fictional character on The Large Bang Principle, produced by Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady

Warren, N., Eatchel, B., Kirby, A. V., Diener, M., Wright, C., & D’Astous, V. (2021). Father or mother-recognized strengths of autistic youth. Autism : the worldwide journal of analysis and apply, 25(1), 79–89. https://doi.org/10.1177/1362361320945556