A survey carried out by a team of British researchers has revealed that people diagnosed with autism and people who exhibit traits of autism without receiving a diagnosis are highly creative types.
The medical community has embraced the findings, with many field experts expressing hope that the wide spread yet flawed perception of autism people can finally begin to change.
The British researchers picked out 312 people and sent them online questions asking whether they had autism or not. After getting a sense of how many of the subjects had been diagnosed with the condition, they also conducted their own tests to check if any of the undiagnosed subjects still exhibited some traits of the disease.
The creativity tests were simple and only related to one specific side of the creative process, however they were good enough to establish that autistic people have highly creative thinking.
During one of these tests, subjects were presented with images of designs that could be interpreted in more than one way. For example, one of the designs used by the research team was the famous image that can be interpreted as either a rabbit or a duck.
For the other test designed to measure the creativity of participating subjects, the research team showed them images of paper clips, bricks and other common object, and gave them one (1) minute to think of as many uses for them as they possible could.
When the tests were over and the researchers started examining the results, they saw that subjects who had received an autism diagnosis, and subjects who had not received an autism diagnosis but still exhibited some traits of the disorder, offered fewer answers for each exercise, however the answers that they did provide were much more outside the box and unusual, when compared to those provided by subjects who did not exhibit any autistic traits.
Dr. Catherine Best, study lead author and expert working at the University of Stirling (in the United Kingdom), offered a statement to Reuters Health informing that he and his colleagues “think that perhaps the people with autistic traits use more effortful methods to produce answers to divergent thinking tasks (not based on obvious word associations or common uses for similar items) and therefore come up with fewer but better responses”.
Public figures such as Cian Binchy and Daryl Hannah have spoken in the past about autism and how the condition helps them be good at their job. They’re both actors.
What the new study finally does is offer scientific proof that creative fields could benefit from welcoming more autistic people into the industry.
The chief executive of Ambitious about Autism, Jolanta Lasota, offered a statement of her own saying that she is very happy scientists finally disproved the flawed yet widely accepted belief that people diagnosed with autism lack creativity. She went on to add that although some people without a learning disability may find it hard to believe, autistic people are also empathetic and not antisocial.
Binchy, the only actor who has a learning disability and is set to perform at the Edinburgh festival later this year, also offered a statement after hearing about the new study. He hopes that he can help people without a learning disability understand that he really isn’t all that different from them, as well as function as a positive example for other people with learning disabilities and make them feel better about their disorder by sharing his own struggles with them.
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