A frequent misunderstanding around autism, is that neurodivergent people all primarily think in pictures, photographs and video. This is likely to have stemmed from Temple Grandin’s 1995 book Thinking in Pictures. It was her belief, at that time, that all autistic people think visually, rather than in words, because that is how she thinks. She has since realised that was a misplaced assumption but due to her well-known reputation as an autistic academic, this misunderstanding continues to some degree.

I would like to have written more on the subject of visual thinking, from Temple Grandin’s perspective. Having purchased her most recent book, Visual Thinking: the hidden gifts of people who think in pictures, patterns and abstractions, hoping it would speak to me, I was disappointed to find there wasn’t a single visual representation in the whole of what has been quite a dry read so far. It’s going to be slow going, but I shall return to this!

It certainly seems to be true that many of us do process information more readily if it presented in a visual format. I certainly think mostly in pictures – it’s how I got such good exam results, despite my lack of attendance! I know other autistic people who primarily think in shapes, patterns, numbers and words. Like other neurotypes, we’re all different and many of us rely on a variety of thinking styles.

If nothing else, it’s worth taking a bit of time to consider how you think and how you learn best – if you learn best in visual formats, you may well be a visual thinker, primarily, and this might be useful to know, purely so that you can adapt your learning and organisational styles.