There is a pervasive misconception that people with autism are technology geniuses or Rain Man-Like savants. It is true that that certain studies estimate the prevalence of savant abilities in autism to be at 10%, whereas the prevalence in the non-autistic population, to be at less than 1%, that is still a relatively small number of people on the spectrum with Savant-like skills. How functional these skills are in everyday life might also be questioned.
More critical are studies suggesting that the fundamental way that people with autism seek out information could enable them to process and think in a way that is unique from people without Autism. This is why many progressive companies are beginning to recognize “The Autism Advantage” and realize how a more neurologically diverse workforce can achieve better outcomes.
April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day. While many people are affected by Autism, there is still a ways to go for people to embrace the Autism Advantage in a meaningful way – especially at the school level. There are clear advantages for kids with Autism to be integrated in a regular streamed classroom. In an integrated classroom, children with special needs have the opportunity to observe typically developing children, who can serve as positive role models. But we hear less about the reverse. What are the benefits for neurotypical children in a diverse classroom setting?
Some obvious benefits include learning tolerance, developing empathy and gaining an appreciation for diversity. But where the real advantage comes is being exposed to seeing the world in a different way that enriches your own understanding and enables you to look at problem solving from a variety of perspectives, thereby providing kids with additional learning strategies. Inclusive classrooms are shown to provide all kids with greater academic outcomes (where neurotypical kids are provided with opportunities to master activities by practicing and teaching others) and prepares all students for adult life in an inclusive society.
On World Autism Day, we invite our friends to Light it Up Blue and show meaningful support for not just people who are affected by Autism, but people from all diverse backgrounds and recognize it is the sum of all of our parts that makes us stronger, smarter and enriches our lives.