Aspergers Teens and Visual-Spatial Abilities

Which figure is identical to the first?


If you have a teenager with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autsim, you may want to ask him. He will likely be very quick to pick the correct answer. Why?

According to research, many teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism demonstrate superior performance in recognizing and discriminating hidden and embedded designs and figures. Brain studies have shown that Aspergers teens use different neural pathways than “neurotypical” teenagers (those who do not have Aspergers) when trying to understand visual-spatial stimuli.



One study was designed to assess the spatial abilities of Aspergers teens in several tests using a human-size labyrinth or maze. The tests measured the ability to learn routes and find unseen locations, both forward and backwards in the maze. The abilities were tested under two different conditions: (1) by exploring directly the environment and (2) from a map.

Two groups of teens were studied: (1) those with Aspergers with normal IQs, and (2) neurotypical teens matched to the test group for age and IQ. All participants with Aspergers performed at a level equivalent to control subjects in how they found a route and surveyed the maze. However, those with Aspergers were better at tasks that involved using a visual map of the maze (i.e., they could read and recall a graphic of the maze and learned the maps more quickly than controls).

An person’s superior ability to detect, match, and reproduce simple visual elements allows them to perform better in tasks relying on detection and graphic reproduction of visual elements that are included in a map. Teens with Aspergers appear to discriminate, detect, and memorize simple visual patterns better than neurotypical teens, which may account for their superior performance in visual-spatial tasks that rely on recognizing and memorizing landmarks or detecting similarities between a map and landmark features.

In non-social settings, teens with Aspergers have superior spatial abilities than typically developing teens, which has been seen in other similar studies of visual-spatial tests in young people with Aspergers.

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