The Age-Old Idea of Multiple Intelligences

Filed Under (autism, Autism and Intelligence) by Estee on 26-05-2010

“The story people tell about you (and the one you tell about yourself in the way you act) may be broadcasting one of your weaknesses louder than you deserve. We often fail to hire or trust or work with someone merely because one of their attributes stands out as below par. That’s our loss,” says Seth Godin on Seth’s blog where he commemorates it being twenty-five years since Howard Gardner presented the idea of “multiple intelligences.” We now take this idea for granted and it’s an idea that is segues us to the manner we approach autism and intelligence.

What caught my attention was the marketing of various intelligences today as attributes, not as deficiencies. In autism, however, we definitely have difficulty reconciling the differences. We sometimes understand and acknowledge autism as a different way of thinking and perceiving on the one hand, while on the other view the manifestation of the very same thought and perception process as impaired, deficient and in need of many therapies to correct. No doubt, autistic people face challenges and those that seem painful (indeed the perspectives on this vary greatly depending to whom we are talking) to many of us are the ones that get targeted for treatment. I wonder, however, if the very idea of thinking in proverbial opposites is the source of our problem — the one that categorizes individuals as “dumb” to “gifted.”

We are definitely conflicted in many ways regarding the way we think about autistic thought and contribution and Seth’s post helped me consider further how we might work to making autistic thought and perception process another one of the age-old multiple intelligences we don’t need to glorify, but take for granted in the best of ways.


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About Me


I’m a PhD candidate at York University, Critical Disability Studies, with a multi-disciplinary background in the arts as a curator and writer. I am the Founder of The Autism Acceptance Project (, and an enamoured mother of my only son who lives with the autism label. I like to write about our journey, critical issues regarding autism in the area of human rights, law, and social justice, as well as reflexive practices in (auto)ethnographic writing about autism.