The idea that people on the autism spectrum might actually benefit from their disorder in certain ways isn’t new, but it received a significant boost in a study just published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. British researchers found that, when faced with problem solving situations, participants with autism spectrum disorder came up with more creative solutions than those without any autistic traits.
The upshot of the research is that, while the autistic participants offered fewer ideas, their ideas displayed more innovative thinking. For example, when asked for alternative uses for a paper clip, non-autistic participants suggested things like a hook or a tool to clean small grooves. Meanwhile, the autistic participants came up with a weight on a paper airplane, a wire to support cut flowers, or a light-duty spring. Who you rather have working for your paper clip innovation lab?
The study goes some way toward explaining why autistic people sometimes excel in artistic fields (exhibit A: Daryl Hannah — who’s autistic — in Kill Bill). More importantly for parents of autistic kids, it suggests that their long-term prospects may be pretty good, provided employment scenarios with the proper support can be created.