|Autistic Special Abilities
Children with autism display a wide range of intellectual abilities, from profound mental deficiency to
superior intelligence. It is generally thought that less than 30 percent of autistic individuals have intelligence
in the normal range. Some autistic persons show exceptional talents despite functional disability in general.
Along with the difficulties, autism can bring individual strengths along with special abilities. Some of these
include strong memory skills, math skills, three-dimensional thinking, musical ability, artistic ability, honesty,
and the ability to intensely focus on an interest.
Many individuals with autism do have "splinter skills” or “islets of ability”. Sometimes people with autism
show talent in a specific area of interest. About 1 in 10 of individuals with autism have specific skills in
which they excel, far beyond the average population. Some children with autism may have special talents,
such as artistic abilities (exceptional drawing), musical abilities (play instruments), and rote memory
Not every person with autism is a savant. Ten percent of people with autism have been reported to
demonstrate savant abilities in music, drawing, or calculation. Savant is a rare condition in which persons
with developmental disorders (including autism spectrum disorders) have one or more areas of expertise,
ability or brilliance. Some individuals with savant syndrome may have little or no impaired cognitive
functioning with their autism.
Other special abilities include:
• Identifying the days of the week on which any date fell or will fall in a wide span of years, commonly
known as calendar calculation.
• Reading fluently at a very young age though not necessarily comprehending the text well.
• Memorizing huge chunks of facts about favorite subjects.
• Dismantling and reassembling complex machines, such as radios.
• Working with computers
The above are just an example of the amazing talents that have been observed in children with autism.
People with autism often perform well in tests that involve visual-spatial abilities, such as fixing jigsaw
puzzles, or matching shapes. While verbal or language tests are more of a challenge for them. A small
percentage of children may do better on verbal tests but this is usually when the tests require a good rote
memory rather than understanding abstract ideas (views which are not physical such as freedom and
principles) or social rules.
Rote Memory Ability
Many children with autism have an excellent rote memory. A number of children can memorize large
amounts of material, which seem to have no practical use, ex. an encyclopedia index page. They can store
huge lists of items in their minds, for extended periods, and repeat them accurately.
A small number of children with autism show exceptional artistic and/or drawing talent. Art offers children
sensorial experiences, a sense of mastery and self esteem, all of which have been proven to be critical
importance to all children. For example, researchers and professionals have successfully used art as a means
of increasing social interactions among children with autism. Art offers other benefits such as positive
emotional development to children on the autism spectrum.
Some children on the autism spectrum also have the ability to say on which day of the week any date will
fall. This is unlikely to be a form of rote-memorization, it seems as if they understand the rules governing
dates and are able to automatically apply them very rapidly. They can be quicker than even mathematicians
who have worked out the formulas for calendar calculation. Occasionally, children with autism also have
quick mathematical calculation, they’re able to mentally add, subtract, multiply and divide large numbers at
Many children with autism spectrum disorder have outstanding abilities in tone recognition. Children with
autism can be highly methodical listeners and are able to access musical details more readily than typically
developing children. Some autistic children display exceptional musical abilities.