Thanks to neuroimaging, we are starting to learn more about how the autistic brain is similar and how it differs from the neuro-typical brain. Here are a few items I gleamed from Dr. Temple Grandin’s book, The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum.

  • There is evidence of accelerated brain growth spurts in some children on the spectrum that seems to affect brain development, and about 20% of people on the spectrum have enlarged brains (mainly males). Statistically, however, current brains scans show brains of neuro-typical and autistic people are for the most part similar when it comes to anatomical differences, and fall within a range of what is considered normal. The difficulty lies, in that most all brains vary from one to the next within certain limits. (Grandin’s brain does show many statistical differences.) Brain scans do show, that for some people on the spectrum, different areas of the brain are activated for certain tasks than neuro-typical brains.
  • Some scans show inter-connectivity differences in various parts of the brain in people on the spectrum. Over or under connectivity can affect various functions of the brain and how the brain regions communicate and work.
  • One commonality in scans is that people on the spectrum often react in an atypical way when viewing pictures of people versus objects. The brains of people on the spectrum show more activity when looking at inanimate objects rather than faces. The opposite is true of neuro-typical brains.

As we work with our students on the spectrum, whether in our mainstreamed class or as a special educator, let’s keep in mind that there are real brain-based learning differences to take into account. As Grandin writes in her book, “It’s in your mind? No. It’s in your brain.”