There are a few in the autism community that thoroughly investigate any studies they find interesting. I’m not one of those. But once in a while I do find a study that strikes a chord with me. I don’t latch onto that study as gospel truth, but I do reflect on it once found.
One such study relates to visual skills.
Children with autism may lack certain visual skills needed to be independent in adulthood, new study findings suggest.
For example, they might find it harder than other adults to find shoes in the bedroom or apples in the supermarket, according to researchers at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom.
The study authors asked 20 children with autism and 20 typical children to press buttons to find a hidden target among multiple illuminated locations in a room. One side of the room had more targets than the other side.
The children with autism took longer to recognize patterns in the test structure that would help them choose where to search for the targets. The findings suggest that the ability to search for objects in a large-scale environment is less efficient and less systematic in children with autism compared to typical children, the researchers pointed out in a university news release.
Personally, I’m a little skeptical that the findings (concerning finding hidden targets in multiple illuminated locations) can be generalized to finding shoes or apples, or that the delays in these skills identified in autistic children necessitates a similar lacking in autistic adults. However, it does strike a chord with me.
One responsibility that seems to be primarily mine in my household of men is keeping track of things and finding them once they go missing. To me, it’s always seemed to be a skill of thoroughness. You put things back into their place, and when they’re not there you look everywhere until you find it. But, perhaps, there’s more to it than that.
Perhaps I am able to identify things in a manner that my husband and children cannot. Whether it’s a perceptual ability or a skill, I don’t know. I mean, if you literally cannot see what you’re looking for—and by see, I mean differentiate the object you’re looking for among the clutter—, then how can you find it? But, perhaps it is a skill. Perhaps it is one of those skills that neurotypical individuals (and some neurodiverse individuals like myself) pick up more or less naturally to the extent that they don’t know how to teach it to those who do not acquire the skill in a similar manner.
It’s worth some thought. Perhaps if I spent less time being annoyed that I am expected to know where everything is even after they’ve moved them and more time helping them develop this skill of minding and finding that I take somewhat for granted, then perhaps we would all be better off.
On the other hand, from what I’ve heard from other mothers (and not just mothers of autistic kids), this seems to be a common complaint among women. Perhaps it’s a male/female thing. I mean, if the study didn’t account for the imbalance between boys and girls with diagnoses of autism, but had a balance between boys and girls in their typical peer group, then perhaps the difference they recorded could be less about typical/autistic development and more about male/female development.
So, what do you think? Is it a skill or an ability? Is it related to autism or something else?