New research has proven what many parents already know: Individuals with autism can have good creativity.
People with autism have long been known for being able to process large amounts of information and for being detail oriented. In a study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, researchers evaulated "divergent thinking" (a component of creativity) in 312 people, 75 of whom reported having a diagnosis of autism. For example, they asked people to list potential uses for a paper clip. Participants with autistic traits were more likely to come up with more original and creative solutions than those without autistic traits, including using the wire from a clip to prop up flowers, as a weight for a paper airplane, or as a token for a game. Standard responses included using paper clips as pins or hooks, or to clean out tiny spaces.
Browse the Web and you'll find excellent examples of the creativity of people with autism. There's the recent viral video of Jacob Velazquez, a 7-year-old piano prodigy with autism playing an amazing medley of Taylor Swift songs that he put together. There's Iris Halmshaw, a British girl with autism whose impressionist paintings have been compared to those by French master Claude Monet. There's Forrest Sargent, a 22-year-old with autism who's a gifted photographer. As with any population of people, there are certain ones who have exceptional creative talents.
Thanks to this study, people are once again seeing that they should never underestimate people who have a disability. As study lead researcher Catherine Best of the University of Stirling in Scotland said, "This is the first study to find a link between autistic traits and the creative thinking processes. It goes a little way towards explaining how it is that some people with what is often characterized as a 'disability' exhibit superior creative talents in some domains."
Ellen Seidman is a mom of two, editor, and professional snacker who blogs daily at Love That Max. You can find her pondering special needs parenthood and other important topics (such as what her next snack will be) on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+ even though she still hasn't totally figured out what that is.