What are some strengths and challenges for people with autism?

The importance of embracing both strengths and challenges is extremely important in strengths-based models of disability–just like any other demographic, finding the positives rather than the overwhelming focus on the negative, which is common in the medical perspectives of disability.

The following sections summarize the strengths and challenges of autistic individuals; however, it is by no means applicable to every individual with autism, nor is it completely comprehensive.


1. Lai and Szatmari find that resilience in autistic individuals should be investigated more due to the tendencies of many autistic individuals and the various strengths that are overshadowed by negative reinforcement and perception.

2. Kirchner et al. find strengths in autistic individuals include many intellectual strengths, including open-mindedness, creativity, and love for learning.

3. Kanner’s initial studies of early infantile autism were validated by recent studies by Meilleur et al., revealing rote memory and tendencies towards musical intelligence.

4. Rapin’s case studies in 1996 provided evidence for strong memory and recognition for puzzles and spatial skills.

5. Howlin et al., further verified by Meilleur et al., presented assessment-based mathematical strengths in the experiment.



The American Psychiatric Association divides the characteristics of autism spectrum condition into two categories: issues with social interaction and communication & restricted and repetitive behaviors. The severity of the condition is highly dependent on the impairments of social communication and restrictive behavior.

Concerns with social interaction and communication include:
1. The child struggles with holding conversations back-and-forth between family and friends.
2. The child is challenged in responding to facial expressions.
3. The child finds it difficult to maintain relationships, such as making friends.
4. The child is extremely uninterested in sharing or discussing their interests and emotions.
5. The child uses facial expressions that do not necessarily match the tone of their voice or the dialogue.

Restricted and repetitive patterns of activity and behavior include:
1. The child continuously engages in repetitive motor movements and often repeats the same dialogue when speaking to a certain individual.
2. The child is inflexible when asked to modify routines or deviate from weekly or monthly schedules.
3. The child has specific attachments to an interest and remains extremely intense with said attachment. For example, this could mean your child would only play video games and never do anything else unless it is part of his schedule.
4. The child overreacts or under reacts to sounds, images, and other sensory inputs.

Keep in mind that many of these challenges can be turned into positives! Attachment to people and inanimate objects can be viewed as intense passion and care, for example. Thus, one important aspect to consider is the perspectives of autism and how different models of disability can portray challenges and strengths.