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Why Autistic People Take Longer To Learn New Things

16846023595_cabe7fa6d6So my friend and I were having one of those conversations about what celebrities could have Asperger’s, and he said Stanley Kubrick. I’ve heard that one before. But then he said something interesting.

“He’s only done 16 films in almost fifty years. He’s not prolific.”

Now, that isn’t absolute proof about Kubrick or anything. But it is a common symptom of Asperger’s. Most of us are less prolific than the average person.

Yes, part of that could be time management issues. Or depression. But I think most of it has to do with us taking longer to figure out the unspoken rules for doing things than it does for other people.

When I started my first blog, I didn’t know how to get followers. I emailed a bunch of bloggers asking if we could exchange links. They told me that to get other bloggers to comment on my blog I had to comment on theirs.

In other words, I had to show I was interested in other people to get them to be interested in me.

I also didn’t understand why I lost followers when I stopped posting for weeks. One woman I’d exchanged comments with frequently stopped replying to my comments on her blog. She was obviously angry with me, but I didn’t understand why. My dad had to explain that the other bloggers were basically my friends. They probably felt like I didn’t care about them anymore when I just fell off the face of the Internet without warning. They may have even been worried about me.

For most people, that’s common sense.

One lesson builds on top of another for everyone. But when you’re on the spectrum, you might not have the intuitive ability to apply those lessons to other things. I had to learn reciprocity as applied to blogging instead of just carrying it over from real life.

When they say people with autism see plenty of details but miss the big picture, they’re completely right. When I write an essay, I pick out points and try to wind them together into a cohesive whole. I don’t always know what I’m trying to say. I remember my teachers telling me that my essays went way off-topic. Other autistic people tell me their teachers said the same thing. It’s probably also why we blurt out random, off-color things sometimes too.

Go easy on yourself if you take longer to get the hang of something. If you’re a writer, it’s okay if it takes you longer to finish your novel because you have to revise it whenever you have a new insight or notice a glaring problem that escaped you before. Those are big-picture things that might be hard for us to see all at once.

Also, you might be subconsciously putting thoughts in your work that you didn’t know you had. We autistic people can be plenty intuitive. We just don’t consciously access our intuition as well as other people. One of my friends told me I can be freakishly insightful but she doesn’t think I realize it. I guess I’m pretty fun to watch. Like a Shakespearean jester or something.

Everything we do takes some detective work. It’s inductive reasoning, always. Which is frustrating, but we shouldn’t let it stop us from trying new things. We might have different thought processes that lead us up to our goal, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do just as well when we get there.

And try to watch those run-on sentences too, huh?

Why Autistic People Take Longer To Learn New Things

Gwendolyn Kansen

Gwen Kansen is a mental health writer in New York. She likes food, karaoke, and smart-but-campy books & TV. She's hoping to capture a little sliver of life on here that might not be the first thing you'd see.

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APA Reference
Kansen, G. (2015). Why Autistic People Take Longer To Learn New Things. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 16, 2019, from


Last updated: 30 Jul 2015
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