Unique Cognitive Issues in Autism
The brain is able to process and respond to multiple signals simultaneously when it has good neuro-connections that allow for proper integration. When the brain is unable to integrate information at the same time, it must process the information sequentially. As a result, children on the spectrum often need to take the time to figure out what others may process intuitively.
Sequential reasoning leads to slower processing so information can be missed if too much is coming in at once. The challenge isn’t only in processing multiple signals, but it also results in a 30 to 60 second delay in information processing. This is extremely draining and leaves the individual constantly struggling to keep up with the information that is quickly coming in. Oftentimes, they are left only able to process pieces of the information that is coming in as most of it came and left prior to ability to process. Not surprisingly, when an individual is acting on only bits of what is being said, their interpretation and response can be out of sync with the norm. For this reason, individuals on the spectrum may appear to be “a little off the beat” in their interactions.
Interestingly, many on the spectrum think in pictures as well as words. They may need to translate our words into pictures before being able to interpret the meaning, further slowing and delaying processing.
Autism Spectrum Thinking
- Detail oriented
- Concrete and logical reasoning
- Strong memory of statistical information and facts
- Strong photographic recall
- Sensory pattern awareness
- Trouble seeing the big picture
- Difficulty with changing information
- Slow sequential processing
- Trouble with vague phrases and abstract reasoning
Clearly there are strengths and weakness to ASD thinking as there is with all “thinking styles”. They are very good with facts, detail analysis, and recognition of patterns. There is lower evaluation bias since they usually only see facts. Challenges do arise in situations requiring quick processing of changing information, trying to discern underlying meanings, and trouble appraising multiple options. Multitasking and filtering distractions out also present as challenges. It may cause them to hyper-focus on sometimes irrelevant details, or they may become distracted by too much information.