Friday, 1 January 2010

Autistic Intelligence

I've just read a really thought-provoking post on the blog Autist's Corner.. The post responds to magazine problem-page article where a reader asks the Agony Uncle what jobs he can't do if he has Asperger's Syndrome. This is something I and other parents of autistic kids worry about: The Future: Will my child be able to live independently/ hold down a job/ have a relationship/ be happy? To some extent, the future is an unknown for all of us, but this is especially true if you are new to autism and worry for your child's wellbeing and happiness.

Stereotypically, and possibly because autism is a predominantly male condition, the jobs which autistic people are considered to be suited to or interested in are those in computers, science and mathemathics. This is because these careers deal in predictable outcomes and suit the traditionally-imputed rigid-mindset of autism. Also, they don't necessarily require socialisation. But what if you're autistic and not interested in computers? Or if you're no good at IT? And what if you, like many other autistic people want to be social?

What if your child is more creative than technical? Despite being autistic, Lyla is highly imaginative, to the extent that she seems to live in a whole imaginary universe that she makes up as she goes along. She'll often string together lines or stories from films she's seen or books we've read and pretend this is her life. It seems to me, that maybe this special kind of autistic intelligence is something to be celebrated.

So, it was heartening to read the list of famous people, diagnosed with autism, who have non-stereotypical careers. I've reproduced part of the list here (clearly these people are at the very high-functioning end of the spectrum):

Actors: Daryl Hannah, Dan Ackroyd, John Turturro
Fashion Model: Heather Kuzmich of America's Next Top Model
Musician: Ladyhawke, Gary Numan, Craig Nicholls of The Vines, Courtney Love
Playwright: David Mamet
Athlete: Surfer Clay Marzo, Marathon Runner, Jonathon Brunot

Photo: Lyla making a collage of Matisse's Snail @ Tate Modern


  1. Great photo and interesting post. Have you got a link to this blog?

    I am fascinated to find out which famous people have high functioning autism or aspergers - it's heartening to know. I witness G's intelligence stretching to such as being able to remember anything he's been told/seen and also to be able to copy things so well because he has such a visual memory. I hope these things will lead him into being able to follow whatever he is interested in. This also includes music. the trouble I am finding at the moment is he is bored, and I would love some advice about how to meet the intelligence of a child who is so high functioning - any out there please let me know!!!

    Hope you are not too bad with your crock leg . . .do ask if you need anything!!


    A.x (that is lots of love not laugh out loud!!!)

  2. It is interesting to read such lists and hopfully is an inspiration to many.

  3. I try not to think that far ahead, just for now, but its hard not to have it pop up and bite me sometimes. I had no idea the people you list had autism (in some form or another) and I like that they are so successful in their chosen fields. Great post:) Jen

  4. You can see I'm still getting the hang of this blogging lark! I thought I'd linked to Autist's Corner ( What I've actually done is activated the post title so it links to that blog- so Apologies!

    I know what you mean Jen about not looking that far ahead. Now I've got a bit further along the road, it's something I worry about now and then and as Casdok says it's really inspiring to see all these people acheiving so much. Like you, I had no idea that most of these were autistic and that's what I like about this list- it is people who definitely are autistic rather than historical figures that people speculate on...

    It's hard A, when they seem so difficult to occupy sometimes, :) Something I'm looking into is play therapy, so we can teach them play skills....I'll keep you posted!


  5. Hi Rachel,

    It really must add an extra dimension of worry, on top of all the other parental fears. Hopefully it's heartening to find out of the blue of so many sucessful people and the varied options out there.

    Best wishes to you and your family


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