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Engineering and Autism

Updated on June 27, 2011

Autism and Engineering

Autism and Engineering

When we are in grade school we learn early on the importance of mathematics and science and for the student that masters these subjects it will help them make choices later on in their life that will impact their future. It has been written about many times that autistic children have poor verbal and communication skills and prefer to work independently rather than in groups. An autistic child usually exhibits strengths in areas that require analytical and spatial skills and if they are encouraged to bring out their talents and they are interested they will compensate for the areas where they struggle.

Engineering is a field that attracts those who are very intelligent and have special skills related to math and science. The engineer usually is very devoted to his or her work and is extremely dedicated to their studies. Engineers typically are very into their work and their studies and have very little time for other pursuits because of the challenging nature of their chosen field. It seems it would be a natural fit for an individual on the autistic spectrum considered high functioning and diagnosed with asperger's to be drawn to engineering.

Extremely gifted children on the spectrum have skills that most children do not have and it is sometimes hard to pinpoint the reason why but it has been widely acknowledged. If we were to sit with these children and bring these talents front and center we would gain an appreciation for their remarkable skill set. It seems for some of these autistic children adding large quantities of numbers or multiplying numbers out 6 or more places is a breeze and they do it with the precision of a computer. It is remarkable to witness and though they may have difficulty socially their skills in these areas will help make them shine.

If you were to study the families of autistic children you would be surprised to find out that many of them come from families where 1 or both parents exhibit strong math and science skills in their professions and are working in the field of engineering. If you went back one more generation you would even find a grand parent that worked in the field as well. It seems there is a possible link between autism and the field of engineering.

You certainly can see strong parallels in this premise when you understand what is required in attaining an education designed for an engineer. It is a very structured curriculum and requires a great deal of discipline and strong skills in math, science and problem solving. Autistic individuals tend to have such skills and certainly have the capability of succeeding in the fields of mathematics, engineering and sciences. In nurturing an autistic child you need to bring out their best and allow them to follow their interests and help point them in the right direction. It is equally important to help address their social difficulties because in today's market the demands require the ability for one to express themselves and their ideas.

My love of engineering came from seeing my dad in pictures working on construction sites and seeing the progression from start to end. If you wanted to sit and talk to someone interesting it would be my dad who talked to many engineers in his day and worked with the best of them. He met the engineer who helped design the Verrazano bridge when he was working in helping to construct it in the early 1960's. My dad was very good at what he did and he and my mom helped to motivate me and instill in me a love of math and science which would prove helpful in our technologically based society. I was also fascinated when my dad brought me to the construction site of the World Trade Center in the early 1970's to see the towers as they were going up. I remember being amazed as I looked upon the site and saw those impressive structures. The day they went down was a very solemn day for both my dad and I after all they had been a big part of our lives.

The best days I remember with my dad as he aged was the days he visited our son and would talk about his experiences working on the high iron and seeing our son's eyes light up in amazement. We even took a drive together over the Verrazano bridge which was dad's legacy. My dad never boasted about his many accomplishments. He was very humble and was a wonderful family man and he was very devoted to his work and he took great pride in what he did. He also took great pride in his family and his grand children. He always encouraged our son and never treated him differently. He always would say, "Matthew, remember to always listen to your mom and dad and always do your homework, especially your math." He and Matthew always enjoyed their time together and that is priceless. Maybe our son will find his niche and hopefully develop a love of something that will allow him to tap into his potential and challenge himself. That is all we can ask for and certainly we will encourage him and help point him in the right direction. If he wishes to study engineering or accounting we will certainly be there to help support him in his endeavors.

The one thing I have come to realize in raising a child on the spectrum is that although we sometimes wonder why he has this to deal with it seems we all have come to accept it including our son and our main concern now is just seeing to it that he is encouraged and taught to believe in himself. There seems to be some good that can come out of it and we always will look to the good in this as we should. Our son knows we love him and want the very best for him and that includes providing him an education and an opportunity to do what he wishes with our love and support and offering our advice from many years of experience.

Edward D. Iannielli III

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