Higher perceptual capacity in autism can be both strength and challenge
A group of friends is sitting in the garden chatting – only one person hears the ice cream van in the distance. That one person has autism. He is also able to hear the buzzing of electricity in the walls and sometimes finds it overwhelming to be in a noisy environment.
Our most recent work, published in Cognition, suggests why that might be the case: People on the spectrum can take in more sounds at any given moment than neurotypical people can.
Over the past few years, there has been growing awareness that sensory experiences are different in autism. What is also becoming clear, however, is that different doesn’t mean worse. There are many reports of people with autism doing better than those without the condition on visual and auditory tasks. For example, compared with typical people, those with autism spot more continuity errors in videos and are much more likely to have perfect pitch.