Economics of Neurodiversity

Many people with autism and/or ADHD are highly talented and endowed with so-called “superpowers”.

Anders Hansen describes 12 superpowers found among people with ADHD: Takes initiatives prolifically, is a force of nature and gets things done, is creative and thinks outside the box, is energetic with unlimited energy, is fearless and pursues new ideas, is curious, is flexible, is good at hyperfocus, is persistent and does not give up, is intuitive and questioning, is excellent at lateral thinking [i.e. views things from new perspectives] and is not deterred by setbacks and adversity. 

Harriet Cannon describes 12 superpower found among autistic people: Attention to detail (thoroughness & accuracy), deep focus (concentration & freedom from distraction), observational skills (listen, look, learn approach & fact finding), absorb and retains facts (excellent long term memory & superior recall), visual skills (visual learning and recall & detail-focused), expertise (in-depth knowledge & high level of skills), methodical approach (analytical & spotting patterns, repetitions), novel approaches (unique thought processes & innovative solutions), creativity (distinctive imagination & expression of ideas), tenacity and resilience (determination & challenges opinions), accepting of difference (less likely to judge others & may question norms) and integrity (honesty, loyalty & commitment).

Low IQ and high IQ are significantly overrepresented on the autistic spectrum with those of average intelligence being statistically underrepresented. There is a significant comorbidity for ADHD among autistic people. It is unknown exactly what percentage of autistic people also have ADHD but it is a very large proportion and perhaps the majority, meaning that many people have both ADHD superpowers and autistic superpowers.

Society needs to begin to recognize autistic/ADHD superpowers as human resources for the national economy. One critical problem with the school system is that it tends to make children uninterested in school subjects rather than making them interested in further fields of study. Autistic/ADHD children are disadvantaged in regular school classes and they should be educated separately with extra investment. With regard to ADHD children should the goal be to keep them away from the path of crime and educate many of them for future entrepreneurship. Many ADHD persons make excellent single entrepreneurs while others are suitable for entrepreneurial teams. Autistic persons are famous for their special interests and the neurodivergent schools should aim to stimulate them to develop academic interests such as computer engineering that will help them earn a good living.

Furthermore, a formal diagnostic system needs to be developed to diagnose autistic/ADHD superpowers as well as autistic savant skills (37% of autistic people have savant skills). This needs to be diagnosed as early as possible so as to be able to individualize education for the child as early as possible and focus on helping the child develop special interest in useful academic areas rather than in trivia as well as providing them with highly focused individualized training in preparation for future professional paths. Such formal diagnostic recognition of superpowers and savant skills will allow neurodivergent people to add those abilities to their CVs and will thus be very useful to both neurodivergent people and to employers.