Evidence has shown that not only are many children with autism spectrum (ASD) highly intelligent, demonstrating creative and cognitive abilities that far exceed those of their non-ASD peers, but autistic children are also better able to process details than other children. In many tests, autistic children outperform their peers on local processing tasks, or tasks that require identification of parts of a whole. This is especially true when there are clear delineations between the individual segments of a global picture. When there is less distinction, the ASD children tend to perform equal to that of their non-ASD peers. Some researchers believe that this local processing skill is a trait of ASD and accounts for the high levels of artistic talent among children with ASD. But Jennifer E. Drake of the Department of Psychology at Boston College hypothesized that perhaps this local processing strength is a trait of artistic talent and not exclusive to individuals with autism.
To test her theory, Drake enlisted 30 children, half of whom had ASD, for a drawing and visuospatial test. She used the Block Design Task and the Group Embedded Figures Test to determine local processing, and also had the children create still life drawings. She found that the children with more drawing talent had higher levels of local processing abilities, regardless of whether they had ASD or not. Drake also noticed that the tests she administered were more predictive of drawing talent than they were of ASD. In other words, tests that are sometimes used to identify ASD traits in children may actually be indicating artistic abilities and not autistic tendencies.
Drake believes that her findings have significant clinical implications. Many children are assessed for autism at a very young age. It is at this time that strengths first appear as well, including artistic strengths. She believes it is possible that many young children with strong local processing abilities may actually be exhibiting artistic strengths when they take these types of tests. In the absence of global deficits, these children may not be demonstrating true characteristics of autism. “Thus, the superior local processing seen in ASD may be due to the drawing talent so often present in those with ASD,” Drake said. But Drake cautions that any deficits or strengths that are outside of the normal range should not be ignored in young children, especially if the children exhibit other reasons for concern.
Drake, J. E. (2012). Is superior local processing in the visuospatial domain a function of drawing talent rather than autism spectrum disorder? Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0030636
© Copyright 2012 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.