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People With Autism Are More Creative, Research Finds

People With Autism Are More Creative, Research Finds

People with autism exemplify more creativity when answering with alternative solutions to a problem.

This finding resulted from a recent study of 312 people who took a questionnaire to measure their autistic traits and participated in creativity tests.

Published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, the research examines people who may not have a diagnosis of autism, but have significant levels of behavior and thought processes normally correlated with the condition.

“People with autistic traits may approach creativity problems in a different way,” said Dr. Doherty, co-author of the study. “They might not run through things in the same way as someone without these traits would to get the typical ideas, but go directly to less common ones. In other words, the associative or memory-based route to being able to think of different ideas is impaired, whereas the specific ability to produce unusual responses is relatively unimpaired or superior.”

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To test participants’ creative thinking, they were asked to provide as many alternative uses as possible for a brick or a paper clip. These responses were rated for quantity, complexity and uniqueness. People who provided four or more unique answers were found to have higher levels of autistic traits.

To understand how they derived these unique answers, let’s take look at what exactly gives people with autism their creative edge.

1. They use cognitively demanding strategies to solve problems

Dr. Doherty mentions that similar studies have found that most people first use simple and easy strategies to answer problems, one example being word association. By taking the more complex and cognitively demanding route, people with autism find themselves examining problems from a new perspective. And this allows them to see answers that may just be hidden gems.

We sometimes find ourselves trying to take the fastest path to solving life’s biggest problems when the truth is that they are often more complex than we realize and require a more intricate approach.

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2. They care less of what others think of them

According to Autism Speaks, people with autism have fewer boundaries when it comes to falling in line with the social norm. This leaves significant room for them to think more openly and, therefore, more creatively.

Many of us fall in line when it comes to keeping our thinking within social boundaries; imagine what would happen if they were removed even for just a small amount of time.

3. They listen in a nonjudgmental way

Jolanta Lasota, chief executive of the charity Ambitious about Autism said, “There are many misconceptions and myths about autism, the biggest one including being antisocial and having a lack of empathy.”

Because people with autism are less judgmental and think more logically, they can break down problems without letting their emotions take over. This gives them the ability to have unique insight into complex issues.

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4. They pay attention to fine detail

A great quote about people with autism that pay close attention to fine detail comes from Ellen Notbohm, author of Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew:

“Patience. Patience. Patience. Work to view my autism as a different ability rather than a disability. Look past what you may see as limitations and see the gifts autism has given me…Also true that I probably won’t be the next Michael Jordan. But with my attention to fine detail and capacity for extraordinary focus, I might be the next Einstein. Or Mozart. Or Van Gogh.”

How many times do we find ourselves scatterbrained and wishing we could focus for just 10 minutes? It happens all the time. If we had an endless supply of concentration, imagine the creativity that would blossom.

Autism has become more prevalent, as it has seen steady growth over the last 20 years. It now affects one in 68 children, and is four times as likely to affect boys. Moreover, one of the larger obstacles is that approximately 40% of children with autism do not even speak.

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The good news is that this new study provides momentum for the case that people with autism deserve a better opportunity in the workforce. Recent data shows that 85% of people with autism are not full-time paid employees, and 79% of them would like to be.

A few well-known people who have autism include: James Durbin, the American Idol alum who recently released his new single, “Parachute;” Alexis Wineman, who won Miss Montana and became the first Miss America pageant contestant with autism; Dan Aykroyd, who is a famous actor and writer notable for his role in Ghostbusters.

Remember, autism is not a disease nor an intellectual disability; it’s simply a condition.

It’s evident that there’s still a tough road ahead for creating opportunities for people who have autism. The first step is looking at them as people first and not through the lens of disability, and we are getting closer to doing that each day.

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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