Creativity and Autism: What’s the Connection?

Differently abled teen in sweater

Autism is among the most common developmental disorders in the United States, and the number of people with the condition is increasing. Based on the biennial report from the CDC, the prevalence rate is already 1:59 children.

Despite the prevalence, the condition still doesn’t have any cure. Many scientists also don’t have a clear idea of how it develops. Children with autism also continue to face challenges daily. These include problems with verbal and non-verbal communication, social skills, and medical needs.

Fortunately, some types of therapy help the children manage their symptoms. Others are also able to function similarly to the general population. One of the aspects they excel in is the arts.

How the Arts Help Children with Autism

How can a paper and an aqua pen help children with autism? One may refer to a growing number of studies. These include a 2015 study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. According to it, people with a higher number of traits of autism were less likely to provide more ideas. But their solutions were more unusual or less standard. In other words, they were more creative.

For the research, the team worked with over 300 people, 75 of whom had an autism spectrum disorder. When asked to determine the possible uses of a paper clip, those with higher traits shared less-known solutions. These included being a game token or wire support for cut flowers. The more unique responses they provided, the higher number of autism traits they had.

In another study, this time in 2016, a drama program highlighted how it could help children with autism communicate better, especially with their parents. With it, families could use elements of theater such as puppetry or even comedy to help manage challenging behaviors of people with the disorder.

Why are Children with Autism Creative?

Teacher playing with a studentThere is no clear answer to the question, but an article published in Forbes may provide some ideas. It suggests that those with the disorder can fall into at least three categories:

  • Visual thinkers
  • Pattern/mathematical thinkers
  • Language or verbal thinkers

It’s possible for a person with autism to be good at one but not the other. In the same way, someone may have two or all these attributes. Nevertheless, they can still vary when it comes to the intensity or degree of their thinking.

Either way, the article highlights how those with autism think differently from those without the condition. For example, they learn through association and process information in a non-linear approach.

They also tend to practice bottom-up thinking. It means they pick up details from their environment to create a conclusion or a concept. On the other hand, those without autism tend to consider the idea first before they look into the details.

In 1983, Dr. Howard Gardner of Harvard University also introduced the principle of multiple intelligences. In its basic definition, it means a person’s intelligence isn’t limited to one or two modalities, which are usually language or mathematical. Instead, a child can also have other forms of knowledge such as spatial, musical, or bodily kinesthetic intelligence. This idea may also apply to all types of people, including those with autism.

Regardless of the actual explanation for the association between autism and creativity, one thing is clear: the supposed “weird” method of processing information among those with the condition may actually be a sign of their uniqueness.