- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
Benefits of Autism
Genetic Strengths and Weaknesses
Autism is looked upon as a disease by the medical community, but there are many advantages to being autistic that are often overlooked.
The fact is that evolutionary processes will often select for certain characteristics that may at first seem to be counterproductive when it comes to survival. However, a closer look can show many advantages to certain genetic predispositions.
For example, the a single sickle cell anemia gene helps to protect against malaria. It is only when a person receives two copies of this gene that things go wrong.
Color blindness is a disadvantage during the daytime, but when the night arrives, color blind people have much better vision. People who are totally color blind can easily read a book by starlight.
The gene for attention deficit disorder is more common in tribal societies. It is believed that this gene helps a person to constantly scan their environment for danger.
Autism and Asperger's Syndrome is probably the result of several genes working together. There are genes that control a person's location on the Autistic Spectrum Disorder scale. Having to many of these genes is counterproductive just like having two copies of the sickle cell anemia gene.
However, being partially autistic has many advantages. If you know someone or have an autistic child, then you can reinforce these strengths while helping to mitigate their weaknesses.
The Autistic Advantage - Empathic Resistance
To understand the advantages that an autistic person owns, you need to understand their weaknesses and the cause of those weaknesses. You need to know how their brain is wired.
The typical person has an area of their brain that is wired to recognize faces. This area of the brain is distinct from the area used for recognizing objects. During their development, the typical person will build upon facial recognition to recognize visible emotions.
The autistic person has a deficit in the area of the brain used for recognizing faces, so they are forced to rely upon the object recognition area of their brain. As they mature, their ability to recognize visual emotions is greatly impaired.
The ability to know what another person is feeling is known as empathy. For the normal person, this is an instinctive understanding. The part of their brain that detects emotion in another person is directly wired to the emotional centers of the brain. When you see that somebody is sad, you actually feel slightly sad yourself. The typical person perceptions are directly wired to their own perceptions.
This understanding of the brain is verified by a few people with strokes to certain visual areas of their brain that make them unable to consciously see anything, but still feel what they see. They can feel whether a picture is sad or happy, but cannot tell you the gender or race of the person in the picture.
Because the autistic person is not empathically wired to their visual input, they must learn to identify emotions using other cues. The normal person has a huge head start in this area due to being able to feel another persons emotions through their empathic visual connections.
This direct empathic wiring makes a normal person subject to manipulation by others. A good speaker can manipulate the emotions of his audience by playing to their empathic centers. This is commonly known as demagoguery and results in herd behavior.
For example, a dishonest president could play on people's fear to start a preemptive war. Many presidents and dictators will use oratory to create a problem that is best solved intellectually rather than emotionally, then use the audience's emotion reaction to propose and implement an illogical solution to the problem.
Autistic people are fairly immune to herd behavior. Right now, they see the coming storm of economic collapse headed toward America. They are beginning to hoard silver, gold, and extra food to prepare for this storm. In the meantime, normal people continue to invest in cash and interest bearing bonds. Normal people figure that endless money can be printed without consequences, because their leaders say it is needed.
On a more immediate level, autistic people make great computer programmers, mechanics, mathematicians, physicists, scientists, and engineers. They also do well at jobs that require independence like delivery drivers or maintenance workers. Their poor social skills often make it hard for them to find the right kind of employment, but once employed, they usually outperform their fellow workers.