Autism: Think Differently

When I started my career in advertising

it was sort of on the heels of one of

most iconic campaigns in the ad game

which was the Think Different

campaign that Apple put together. It

talked about there’s certain people that

bucked convention that did things

different from the way that things were

done. And because of their approach in

the way that they thought differently

they were able to make some profound and fundamental changes.

We found out or we began to suspect that our older boy

who’s now five has autism around when he

was two years old and I didn’t really

understand what it was. You’ve seen probably

Rain Man or something and you have some

understanding of some exceptional skills

or or or the word that sometimes has

been used is a ‘savant’ but you don’t

really understand what it is. So autism

is a gap in communication and people

or individuals on the spectrum they

just they don’t connect they don’t

communicate they don’t necessarily see

or hear what is being transmitted at

them. The spectrum is kind of wide

berth of understanding—it’s a bit of

a catch-all. Autism, it’s

not binary it’s not like you have a cold

or you don’t have a cold. It’s a whole range of symptoms.

And the spectrum is comprised of ADHD,

autism, speech apraxia—a number of things.

Bbut that’s sort of at its core

what autism is. You can look at various

behavior of some notable people in

history: Albert Einstein for example, even

some historical figures like Mozart,

recent figures like Amelia Earhart, even

Steve Jobs, and they displayed some very

classic behavior of people on the

spectrum. I was reading a report that was

published in the Journal of Autism and

Developmental Disorders. It talks about how

people on the spectrum are programmed to

think differently. They did a series

of tests they asked a number of people—I

think there was a sampling of about 350

people—and they asked them to look at

common things like paper clips and

identify alternative uses for

for these common items. A neurotypical

responds to that question would have

been things like a pin or a fishhook or

a piece of jewelry. People on the

spectrum gave answers like a ballast for

a paper airplane or chips for gambling.

And they found that their responses were

less than 5% of the common responses of

the whole sample size, so they were

actually you know quantitatively

different. So people on the spectrum, the

right side of the brain—the one that

answers, they say, for the creativity, for the

common experiences—the more sort of

social behavior—its impaired. It’s one of

the reasons that they’re that they are

the way that they are. There isn’t really

a social common behavior that they have.

There aren’t the same references that

they share with people. So people on the

spectrum, their left side—the more

logic side—not only is it not impaired

because it’s what they use more often, in

some cases it tends to be more developed.

And the theory that came out of this this

piece was people on the spectrum they

approach problem-solving differently

because that’s the way that they’re

wired. I think many people remember the

Think Different campaign that talked about

there’s certain people that did things

differently from the way that things were

done. And there was a one-minute film

basically celebrating that…”Here’s to the

crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels

the troublemakers, the round pegs in the

square holes, the ones who see things

differently…” They kind of went through

and selected some iconic figures who,

just through the sheer willpower or

because they thought differently changed

humanity for the better. And it just

so happens that many of these people

that changed the face of humanity, that

thought differently, were on the spectrum they said—including Steve Jobs who

is suspected to have had Asperger’s. If

you include 18 the 18 people highlighted

13 of the 18 people were either

diagnosed as being on the spectrum, or

suspected to have been on the spectrum,

which is pretty amazing. And there was

never a brief, at least I never read

about a brief, that they were looking for

people on the spectrum. They were looking

for people that thought differently. It

kind of occurred to me that the creative

field has been a place for people on the

spectrum for many many years and I think

in many ways without even really knowing

it celebrated it—or at least certain

things about it—unknowingly.

My name is Alex Shifrin and I think the

creative industry is an environment

where autism, or people who are on the

spectrum, become part of the community.