Positive autistic traits are often overlooked as autism is usually seen as a disability, a problem, or a burden. Autism is a developmental ‘disorder’ that affects how a person communicates, interacts, and perceives the world, but autism is not a disease that needs to be cured; it’s a spectrum of diverse and unique ways of being human. And autistic people like me have many positive traits that not only enrich our lives but also the lives of others – if we are allowed to be ourselves.
There are a lot of negative stereotypes and misconceptions about autism – I shared them before I began my research – and I hope that this post, by celebrating the strengths and gifts of autistic people, will help to cut through those stereotypes.
Remember, though, that every autistic person is different. We don’t all have these traits to the same degree. The examples mentioned here are mostly of individuals with low support needs, (level one) and their achievements are extreme enough to make the person publicly notable. For most autistic people the difficulties we have in interacting with a world made for neurotypical people often prevents us from using our abilities to their fullest. This is why businesses would benefit by making the kind of simple allowances needed by level one autistic people so they can thrive in the workplace.
Creativity and Originality
One of the positive traits of autism is creativity and originality. Autistic people often have a different way of thinking, seeing, and doing things. They can come up with novel and innovative ideas, solutions, and perspectives. They can also express themselves in artistic and imaginative ways, such as music, art, writing, or coding.
Story of my life – as illustrated by the Psychemagination story
For example, some of the famous and successful people who are or were autistic include Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Andy Warhol, Satoshi Tajiri, and Temple Grandin. They all contributed to the fields of science, art, music, and technology with their creative and original works.
Passion and Focus
Another positive trait of autism is passion and focus. Autistic people often have intense and special interests that they pursue with enthusiasm and dedication. They can spend hours learning, researching, practicing, or talking about their passions. If they are also gifted, then they can become experts or masters in their fields of interest and share their knowledge and skills with others.
For example, some of the autistic people who have excelled in their passions include Tim Burton, who is a famous film director and producer; Daryl Hannah, who is a successful actress and environmental activist; and Daniel Tammet, who is a writer and polyglot who can speak 11 languages.
My personal passion led me to spend 20 years in the performing arts, followed by 5 years fulltime studying editing and writing, and another 5 to finish writing 10 books. Now my passion project is Psychemagination. And I have done a huge amount of quality work in just a few months.
Honesty and Loyalty
Another positive trait of autism is honesty and loyalty. Autistic people often value truth and integrity, and they tend to say what they mean and mean what they say. They can also be loyal and faithful friends, partners, and family members, who stick by their loved ones through thick and thin.
For example, some of the autistic people who have shown honesty and loyalty include Greta Thunberg, who is a climate activist and Nobel Peace Prize nominee; Anthony Hopkins, who is an Oscar-winning actor and philanthropist; and Carly Fleischmann, who is a non-verbal autistic author and talk show host.
Sensitivity and Empathy
Another positive trait of autism is sensitivity and empathy. Autistic people often have a heightened sense of awareness and perception, and they can experience emotions deeply and intensely – I certainly do. They can also empathize and care for others, especially those who are marginalized, oppressed, or suffering.
I literally cannot watch a movie where someone is torturing someone else. It makes me feel physically ill. And watching the news reports is a challenge that often results in tears and many deep breaths, followed by sending healing light to those who are suffering. Many autistic people would simply not watch, but I have a way to not only handle it, but also to feel that my visual prayer might help on some level.
Some of the well-known autistic people who have demonstrated sensitivity and empathy include Temple Grandin, who is an animal scientist and advocate; Heather Kuzmich, who is a model and artist; and Naoki Higashida, who is a non-verbal autistic author and poet.
A Fierce Sense of Justic
One of the positive traits of autistic people is a fierce sense of justice. Autistic people often have a strong moral compass, and they care deeply about fairness, equality, and human rights. They can stand up for themselves and others, and they can challenge injustice and oppression in the world.
As a child I always stepped between bullies and their victims, to protect the victim. I even pushed one bully over – and got the strap for it. But I had good enough language skills that my lectures were often feared enough to make them walk away when I turned up.
Some of the autistic activists who have fought for justice include Lydia X. Z. Brown, who is a disability rights lawyer and organizer; Ari Ne’eman, who is a co-founder of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network; and Judy Singer, who is a sociologist and the coiner of the term “neurodiversity”.
Memorising and Learning Information Quickly
Another positive trait of autistic people is memorising and learning information quickly. Autistic people often have a remarkable ability to store and recall information, especially in their areas of interest. They can absorb and retain facts, details, and data with ease and accuracy. They can also learn new skills and languages rapidly and efficiently.
Some of the autistic people who have shown amazing memory and learning abilities include Kim Peek, who was the inspiration for the movie Rain Man and who could read and remember thousands of books; Stephen Wiltshire, who is an artist who can draw detailed and accurate cityscapes from memory; and Jacob Barnett, who is a mathematician and physicist who taught himself calculus at age 10. This is autism and a high level of giftedness in action. Such individuals are called twice exceptional – gifted and autistic.
I’m not at that level, but during my study of writing and editing, I didn’t do a university course because it wouldn’t be tailored to my interests, and I learn better and faster by directing my own learning. I remember and synthesize information quickly and am skilled at evaluating examples and my personal experience in terms of my learned knowledge.
The percentage of autistic people who are also gifted is not clear, as different studies have used different definitions and methods to measure giftedness and autism. However, some estimates range from 10% to 37% of autistic people having savant abilities or unusual cognitive skills, which are forms of giftedness. Giftedness and autism share some neurological and behavioural features, such as intellectual excitability, sensory differences, and uneven development. More research is needed to understand the relationship between giftedness and autism.
Logical Thinking Ability
Another positive trait of autistic people is logical thinking ability. Autistic people often have a rational and analytical mind, and they can use logic and reason to solve problems and make decisions. They can also spot patterns, connections, and inconsistencies in information, and they can apply rules and principles to various situations.
All of which makes me a very good editor. The best proofreader I know is also autistic.
Some of the autistic people who have excelled in logical thinking include Alan Turing, who is considered the father of computer science and artificial intelligence; Paul Dirac, who is a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and one of the founders of quantum mechanics; Albert Einstein, who is widely regarded as the greatest physicist of all time; Isaac Newton, who is one of the most influential scientists in history; and Ada Lovelace, who is the first computer programmer.
An Extraordinarily Good Memory
Another positive trait of autistic people is having an extraordinarily good memory. Autistic people often have a phenomenal memory, and they can remember facts, dates, events, and experiences for a long period of time. They can also use their memory to enhance their learning and performance, and they can impress and entertain others with their recall skills.
I’m not impressive in this area, but I have a good enough memory that I coasted through high school doing a minimum of study. I can see in my mind the page in a textbook with the information I need to answer a question and literally read the words from the image of the page in my mind. Sort of a photographic memory, but specifically for words, images and diagrams. I’m a complete wash out when it comes to remembering numbers. This is the uneven development common in all neurodivergent people. we can have a high level of excellent in some areas and relatively poor skills elsewhere, and which areas we’re good at are different for different individuals.
Some of the autistic people who have demonstrated extraordinary memory include Daniel Tammet, who is a writer and polyglot who can speak 11 languages and who memorized pi to 22,514 digits; Jill Price, who is one of the first people diagnosed with hyperthymesia, a condition that allows her to remember every day of her life; and Orlando Serrell, who is a savant who acquired the ability to perform complex calculations and remember calendar dates after a head injury.
Being Precise and Detail Orientated
Another positive trait of autistic people is being precise and detail orientated. Autistic people often have a keen eye for detail, and they can notice and appreciate the subtleties and nuances of things. They can also be precise and accurate in their work and communication, and they can avoid errors and mistakes. Not only do autistic people find it virtually impossible to lie, but they will also make sure their knowledge and understanding is correct before sharing information with others. I couldn’t bear to discover that I might have inadvertently added to misinformation, so I don’t speak of anything of which I am not sure of the facts.
Some of the autistic people who have shown precision and attention to detail include Donna Williams, who is an author and artist who created intricate and colourful paintings; Vernon L. Smith, who is a Nobel Prize-winning economist and experimentalist who developed precise methods for studying human behaviour; and Dawn Prince-Hughes, who is an anthropologist and primatologist who observed and documented the social behaviour of gorillas.
For me, this shows up in my attention to detail in editing. I find it extremely difficult to just do an edit where the author doesn’t want their sentences improved. This is because I am so aware of what is needed to make the prose more readable and engaging – I see the weaknesses in the writing beyond grammar, spelling and punctation – that it’s almost painful for me not to improve it. Hence, I prefer line editing to copy editing.
And here in Pyschemagination, it shows in how I work with the art generator to get the exact image for which I’m looking, and then the amount of time I spend animating the images and combining them to create the videos. If after I’ve published them, I find I’ve missed one small thing, I can’t stand not to do it again.
Exceptional Honesty and Reliability
Another positive trait of autistic people is exceptional honesty and reliability. Autistic people often value truth and integrity, and they tend to say what they mean and mean what they say. They can also be reliable and trustworthy friends, partners, and colleagues, who keep their promises and commitments.
An autistic person would never rip you off! Integrity is very important to me in everything I do. But the honesty and directness of our communication style, can, however, be a problem, as people can see it as being terse or rude. And they often do!
Some of the autistic people who have shown honesty and reliability include Anthony Hopkins, who is an Oscar-winning actor and philanthropist who has been open and candid about his autism; Daryl Hannah, who is a successful actress and environmental activist who has been loyal and faithful to her causes and friends; and John Nash, who is a Nobel Prize-winning mathematician and economist who overcame his mental illness and returned to his work and family.
Autism is Not a Defect, it’s a Difference
Autism is not a defect or a flaw. It is a difference and a diversity. And there are many positive traits that autistic people have that can benefit themselves and society. Autistic people are creative, original, passionate, focused, honest, loyal, sensitive, and empathetic. They are not less than, but different from. And they deserve respect, acceptance, and appreciation for who they are.
I hope this blog post has helped you to see the positive side of autism, and to celebrate the beauty and diversity of the autistic community. Thank you for reading.
I used the Bing AI to speed up the research process on this blog by asking it to find sources of information and examples of famous people who exhibit these traits. Though assisted by AI, I have edited the text in detail, rewritten much of it and added my own personal experience. Sharing this point is my honesty in action!
Do you know anyone with autism, or are you autistic? If so, do you see these qualities in them or yourself?
This Autism Awareness Centre article by Maureen Bennie was the main reference. She is the director of the Autism Awareness Centre and a parent of two children with autism. She lists and explains some of the positive traits of autism and gives examples of famous and successful people who have them.
This article by the University of Leeds, which summarizes the positive features of autism and provides some icons to illustrate them.
This website by The Spectrum, which is an online platform for autistic people and their families. It has a section on autism and its strengths and gives some examples of autistic people who have excelled in their passions.
This blog post by My Aspergers Child, which is a resource for parents and teachers of children and teens with Asperger’s and high-functioning autism. It lists 50 positive characteristics of ASD level 1 and explains why they are beneficial.
This article by Cooper et al. (2020), which is a scientific study on the effects of autistic identity and community on self-esteem and well-being. It shows how autistic people who have a positive view of autism and a strong sense of affiliation with other autistic people have improved psychological outcomes.