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Understanding autism
Understanding autism

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5.3 Creativity

Researchers seeking to explain the basis of exceptional savant talents have suggested that the key underlying abilities are exceptionally accurate memory and attention to detail rather than the ability to generate truly original outputs (Treffert, 2006). This is in keeping with a traditional view, emphasised by the diagnostic criteria, that autistic people lack creativity. However, it is becoming clear that autism is compatible with creativity and may even promote it (Roth, 2007; Treffert, 2009). The American artist Jessica Park makes pictures of well-known buildings which are accurate and yet highly original in their imaginative use of colour.

Jessica Park’s picture of the Chrysler Building, New York.
Figure 6 Jessica Park’s picture of the Chrysler Building, New York.

The autistic artist Jon Adams, who was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome as an adult, reflects on what he sees as the link between his autism and his creativity:

As I viewed the world with a different lens, a differing perspective, the influence on my creativity and making is not surprising. I don’t think there has been a day where creativity hasn’t been the major part of my life. As a child, I was always assembling, collecting and drawing – never letting go of those desires or a pencil ever since. At 6 years old, when asked what I wanted, I said ‘to be an artist’. It seemed the most honest, logical and heartfelt answer I could give.

Jon Adams, 2016
Jon Adams drawing of a conventional, indistinct looking landscape drawn in an abstract style.
Figure 7 Landscape A by Jon Adams.