The public perception of people diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is that it is a disability.  However, when seen through the lens of Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, the situation is more complex with both strengths and challenges serving as a truer picture of autism.  People identified with ASD usually have difficulty with interpersonal intelligence (People Smart), picking up on social cues, reading subverbal communications, deciphering a person’s intentions.  But recently it has come to light that they often display logical-mathematical intelligence (Number/Logic Smart) with their ability to work with logical systems, find small errors in computer code, and do other things that are valued in the Information Technology industry.

Those who are ”savants” (approximately 10% of the total population of people with ASD) have gifts in other intelligences as well.  Some savants can play a piece of music after hearing it only once (musical intelligence), others can draw a highly detailed landscape or cityscape, again after having seen it one or two times (spatial intelligence).  I’ve suggested in some of my writings, that people with autism may have prospered in prehistoric cultures because of their super-sensibilities when it came to detecting perceptions in nature such as poisonous plants, sounds of predators, and dangerous weather patterns (naturalist intelligence).

It’s important that we re-evaluate our stereotypical perceptions of individuals diagnosed with autism because our negative views can have a harmful impact upon their self-esteem, their confidence, and their aspirations for success in the world.  In addition, it can have a dampening impact on the efforts of people who work with people with ASD, including teachers, therapists, employers, and others.  By using a broad palette of human potentialities such as the theory of multiple intelligences, we can see the whole human being and not get trapped in the limitated expectations that all too often come with a label like ”autistic.”

For more information about Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, get my practical guides to multiple intelligences for:

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Cover of book 7 Kinds of SmartBook cover of Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom, 4th edition by Thomas ArmstrongCover of book In Their Own Way: Discovering and Encouraging Your Child's Multiple Intelligences

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I’m the author of 20 books including my latest, a novel called Childless, which you can order from Amazon.

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  1. This blog discusses the concept of multiple intelligences within individuals with autism spectrum disorder, highlighting that intelligence goes beyond traditional academic abilities. It’s essential to recognize and celebrate the diverse strengths of people on the spectrum. Thank you to the author for sharing this informative perspective!

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