Undeniably, individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) view the world differently from the neurotypical.
However, are you curious about the thinking styles common in ASD individuals? In light of Autism Awareness Month, we will use everyday contexts to illustrate the unique ways in which ASD individuals perceive our world!
1) Bottom-Up Thinking:
To understand how this works, picture each of our five senses as bricks that form a tower, with the tower being a conclusion to be derived.
For neurotypical individuals, they perceive the tower in its entirety first before scrutinising each brick separately. However, for bottom-up thinkers, they would study each brick closely first before considering the tower in totality.
Take for example walking past a construction site. The bottom-up thinking process would involve hearing the drilling noises, smell the paint, observing the surrounding dust, before arriving at the conclusion that they are walking past construction.
While this may seem cumbersome at first glance, famous ASD advocate Temple Grandin notes that this way of thinking allows for more novel and in-depth solutions for problems to be generated, which is imperative for innovation.
2) Visual/ Associative Thinking:
“Wow, they sell my favourite cornflakes here! The first time I tasted it was when I was 5. Back then, I was still in kindergarten and my teacher was Mrs Tan. I remember her teaching me Math. Oh no, I still have that undone Math assignment at home…”
The aforementioned thought bubble is a glimpse into an ASD individual’s thought process. As seen, they tend to frequently digress in their thought patterns. This is a result of their minds being quick to link one idea or image to the next, which creates an extensive web of thoughts chained by association.
3) Verbal/ Logic Thinking
Verbal/logic thinkers flourish at rote memory as it involves learning by repetition or routine. This, combined with ASD individuals often having a strong fixation towards a single interest at a time, enables the individual to remember a specific set of details intensely and clearly.
Fascinatingly, some ASD individuals have seemingly photographic memory. Just watch this gentleman, Steven Wiltshire, draw Singapore purely from recollection. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-73DQ1hLsD)
These are just some of the ways in which individuals with ASD think. Collectively, both neurotypical and neurodivergent thinkers have unique ideas and skill sets that they can bring to the table. May we all learn to appreciate the rich diversity that our human race offers!
- Lovering, N. (2022, May 3). Autism and logical thinking: What to know. Psych Central. Retrieved April 23, 2023, from https://psychcentral.com/autism/why-people-with-autism-are-more-logical#autism-and-logical-thinking
- Thinking & The Autism Spectrum. The Place for Children with Autism. (2019, October 3). Retrieved April 23, 2023, from https://theplaceforchildrenwithautism.com/autism-blog/thinking-and-the-autism-spectrum
See here to find out more about Autism.