We all know individuals in each of these areas, and for those of us who walk with autism in our lives everyday, we may have seen it a bit more.
Perhaps they can put together a difficult puzzle in minutes, are really good at the game Tetris or something similar, memorized the details of a room layout, or can diagram the inner workings of a robotic device. These all involve visual/spatial intelligence.
I was one of a few girls who scored high in this area in high school (remember the ASVAB test?). This was because I could visually see an object in my mind, in 3D. Granted, I couldn’t get overly detailed with it, but I could (and still can) twist and turn an image or object around in my mind to see it from various angles. This allowed me to answer questions about what the object would look like if turned a quarter turn, or upside down. So for my work, visual/spatial intelligence involves the ability to visualize a noun (person, place, thing) in three dimensions and adjust the visualization to see it in a new way.
If you’ve watched ABC’s The Good Doctor, then you’ve seen this type of intelligence in action when Dr. Murphy visualizes organs and nerve/blood pathways by turning them in his mind to “see” from all sides.
According to Howard Gardner, spatial refers to “an ability to perceive the visual world accurately, transform and modify perceptions and re-create visual experiences even without physical stimuli” (Gardner, Human Intelligence, p.22). He includes chess players, artists, and navigators in this group.
I have seen this intelligence in many of my clients, regardless of their age or background. The children can build towers and figure out escape options for their cribs, playpens, or restricted areas. The teens are incredibly good at games like Minecraft and the board game Blokus. A lot of my clients seem to be really good at Legos.
Of course, this is just one intelligence, and we all often have strengths in a few of them. Next week, I’ll look at one of the toughest areas for those on the autism spectrum: Interpersonal.
Frames of Mind, The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Howard Gardner. BasicBooks, 1993.
Wikipedia: Spatial Intelligence (psychology)
Brain Metrix: Spatial Intelligence
ScienceDirect: Components of Spatial Intelligence (abstract only, full PDF can be purchased)
Photo Credit: Disney ABC Media