Autism Wiki

Literal thinking

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Mathematical Woman by MissLunaRose

"Mathematical Woman" by autistic artist Miss Luna Rose

Autistic people (especially those with Asperger's) tend to take things literally. They may have trouble with metaphors, sarcasm, and figures of speech.

Here's a conversation involving "literal thinking".

  • Mum: Go break a leg!
  • Son: Why would I break my leg?

As they get older, autistic people often learn how to take things figuratively, but may have trouble telling whether someone is serious. Jokes and sarcasm may still confuse them, along with figures of speech they haven't memorized.

  • Jessica: (smiling as she sees Sara approaching) Uh oh, here comes trouble!
  • Sara: !?

To understand humor better, autistic people may read and watch comedies and share jokes with others. If they struggle with expressions such as "the pot calling the kettle black," they may find a book of idioms helpful.

The flipside of literal thinking is improved logical skills. Autistic people may be especially adept with mathematics, computers, and logic puzzles. Parents may want to buy toys that encourage the development of these skills, and autistic people may want to pursue a career in STEM.

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