All children shine in their own light, but particular strengths come along with an Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis that you may start to notice as your child continues to grow and develop. As we know, there are different levels of ASD, so Autism strengths do vary from child to child but generally revolve around particular topics of interest, memory skills, reading skills, and artistic skills, just to name a few.
At Simple Spectrum, we know that your journey is unique, and understanding your child’s strengths may be one of the best ways to help your child grow. Today, we discuss unique strengths that may come with ASD and how to encourage your child to use these strengths to improve other areas of their lives. These could be strengths within your child’s own skillset or strengths that are noticeable when compared to other children in their age group.
Remember that every child is different and may have more or different strengths from the ones we will discuss in this article, but it doesn’t mean that your child shines any less.
They Are Visual Thinkers & Learners
One of the most important things about development is understanding how your child learns. Are they better listeners? Are they visual learners or step-by-step learners? This is something that all parents should pay attention to, but parents of children with ASD, should especially take note of. Children with Autism tend to be visual learners and thinkers, and this is a strength that can be used to develop other skills.
Visual skills may be common in children diagnosed with Autism because they tend to focus on the smaller details rather than the larger picture. There is a lot of skepticism and debate on whether children with ASD learn better with visual aids, but many parents believe this is their child’s most obvious strength. Visual learning may be more effective for Autistic children because visual information is often processed differently and lasts longer than written or audible information.
If your child has shown visual learning as a strength, you can build on these optical strengths to help your child excel in other areas as well. For example, you could leave visual reminders around the house to remind your child to do specific things; this is particularly helpful to parents who have difficulty communicating with their children. Parents might also find it beneficial to use photos or drawings that visually explain everyday tasks such as brushing teeth, getting dressed, tying their shoes, packing lunch, etc.
They Like Structure
When we say that children with Autism tend to like rules and structure, we don’t mean the strict “don’ts” of the house but rather the rule-based thinking that creates structure for your child. This is considered an Autism strength that could also be used to expand your child’s skill set.
Typically, children with ASD tend to have an exceptional understanding of rules and structure. Creating structure for your child can start by making clear and specific rules or steps for almost everything can be a great way to help your child with day-to-day activities. Another great thing about this particular strength is that it may help your child with the “unspoken rules” of social communication and interaction, which we know children with ASD tend to struggle with.
When creating structure, it’s important to avoid the don’ts and the negative of rules. Instead, phrase it in an “if/then” way. For example, “if someone says hello to you, then you say hello back.” Your child is more likely to respond to positive instructions or associations than negative rules and what not to do in social situations.
They Benefit From Routines and Consistency
Another strength of children with ASD is their preference of set routines and consistency. As we talked about, they are visual learners and thinkers so having a visual schedule can be beneficial to both you and your child. It is not uncommon for children with Autism to have difficulty understanding day-to-day activities or tasks that they need to participate in - social situations, outings, doctor visits, brushing teeth, bedtime rituals. Creating a visual schedule for your child can help them navigate and understand the need for these daily tasks and routines. Once a routine is created, your child should know what to expect in situations that may have otherwise caused additional stress or sensory overload.
Hyperlexia is a term that refers to children who start to read and decode language and numbers at a very young age. In many cases, some children will be able to read before they are even able to communicate or comprehend what they are reading. I have a quick story about this that I would love to share; my nephew is almost five years old, and his parents were concerned when he wasn’t speaking or even making sounds at around two years old. It also took him a bit longer to get out of diapers, so naturally, our family was concerned. However, right before he turned three, he started sounding out letters and was able to read! It was incredible, and we couldn’t believe it! He started reading before he started speaking - we did not know that this was even possible. Shortly after he began reading everything, it would only take about a year until he began speaking and communicating with us. He was diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder shortly after.
I share that story because it shows how these Autism strengths may not seem like strengths at first. My very intelligent nephew eventually used his reading skills and hyperlexia to develop a new skill set: speaking and communicating with others.
Hyperlexia is not clearly defined in the DSM-5 and usually does not occur independently, but the DSM-5 lists hyperlexia as a component of Autism.
Special Interests & Strong Memory Skills
Children with ASD tend to hyperfocus on certain things, resulting in exceptional knowledge of one topic or area of interest. This can be difficult for parents at times because it’s hard to shift their focus, but this is actually a strength that can be used as a tool to expand on or develop new skills.
Suppose your child is particularly interested in a specific topic. In that case, you can encourage them to speak about their topic of interest and engage with them by asking questions and simply listening. This can sharpen their communication and even social skills.
Having a good memory is so helpful and such a great strength to possess. Children with ASD tend to have “rote memory skills,” which is just a fancy way of saying that they memorize and learn things by heart. This can mean that they remember songs, movies, entire conversations, or even whole scenes from movies.
Studies suggest that these strong memory skills come from a specific system within the brain. Declarative memory is a single brain system that counters or offsets some of the learning deficits in Autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders.
At Simple Spectrum, we also want to help children be the best version of themselves, and that is why our spectrum supplements can be used to sharpen your child’s skills by addressing dietary deficiencies.
If we have left out a strength that you think we should include, please contact us to add it! As parents, we all know how important it can be to help our children find and sharpen their strengths, no matter what. So let’s identify the strengths within our own children to help them live a more independent and fulfilling life!