Can Children With Autism Have Exceptional Talents?

You might have read stories about children with autism also having an incredible skill for playing music or for completing complex mathematical equations – which could give you hope that your child with autism might not have to struggle in every area of his life. It is true that some children with autism have exceptional abilities, but these cases are not the “norm.”

Autism and Intelligence

According to Bright Tots, children with autism display a wide range of abilities -- while some children might display profound mental deficiency, others have normal or even above-normal intelligence 2. Bright Tots suggests less than 30 percent of children with autism have normal intelligence. However, children with autism might excel in one particular area.


As reported by Karen Meyer for ABC News, children with autism can have exceptional talents. Meyer tells the story of Johnny Reisel, who can artistically re-create cityscapes in great detail. Reisel’s talent is an example of a savant skill. Bright Tots defines "savant" as “a rare condition in which persons with developmental disorders (including autism spectrum disorders) have one or more areas of expertise, ability or brilliance.” Bright Tots also says that only about 10 percent of the autism population shows savant abilities 2. According to a report in "Time" magazine, three out of eight child prodigies investigated in a study had a diagnosis of autism, and most of the prodigies scored highly for autistic traits.

Common Special Abilities

Special abilities, according to Bright Tots, include:

  • strong memory skills
  • musical or artistic ability
  • math skills or the ability to focus on one area of interest,
  • these abilities might exceed those of neurotypically developing children 2

For example, some children with autism have outstanding tone recognition, perfect pitch or the ability to re-create a tune by ear, skills that even most musicians have to work to acquire.


Not all children with autism have a specific exceptional ability, and savant abilities in particular are very rare. However, your child might show an interest in an activity or subject even from an early age -- by fostering that interest, you give your child the chance to be an “expert” in that area. According to Bright Tots, about 1 in every 10 children with autism has skills at which they excel, even beyond that of the neurotypical population.