Does being autistic mean your child has a superpower?

When you watch TV, read books, or go to a movie, usually, people on the autism spectrum are portrayed as having special or “savant” skills: a young child who can crack advanced codes, an adult with an astonishing memory, or a musician who can play any tune by ear after a single hearing. Are these realistic or helpful?

Can autism be a superpower?

Probably, yes, in a few cases – some autistic people do have extreme abilities – but the popular belief that all autistic people are really geniuses isn’t helpful to parents or carers struggling with autistic people with no speech and self-harming behaviours, meltdowns, or sensory overload.

Many parents with autistic children are often (understandably) annoyed by the emphasis on savant skills in the media:

“When people ask me what my autistic son’s special talent is, I tell them it’s having a meltdown in the shop because the fluorescent lights flicker!”.

Research tells us that more than two-thirds of people with Autism don’t have a superpower or a savant skill. Even though savant skills – like having a photographic memory, or the ability to compute complex mathematical equations quickly – and Autism may be linked in some way, most people with Autism do not in fact have a savant skill.

Autism means that children do have areas of increased ability and knowing what they are can help focus your child’s energy in the right direction. Everyone has strengths, and the best way to learn about someone’s strengths is by getting to know who they are as a person and what they love. When talking about strengths we don’t only mean skills that have commercial or academic value, we are also including attributes like empathy, humour, and resilience

At CCH we believe if your child is diagnosed early we can identify, grow and nurture interests. Those abilities can increase self‐esteem, opportunities for interaction and appreciation, plus future employment options for children on the autism spectrum.

Children with Autism share difficulties in the core areas of social communication, restricted and repetitive behaviours and sensory processing, every person with Autism is unique and has different abilities and interests. This is why Autism is called a ‘spectrum disorder’, and why our support is tailored to the child’s individual needs.

Let’s look at it this way – Given the right circumstances – being different is a superpower.