Most people are more word-centric than I am. For many, it’s words, not pictures, that shape thought. That’s probably how our culture became so talky: Teachers lecture, religious leaders preach, politicians make speeches and we watch “talking heads” on TV. We call most of these people neurotypical — they develop along predictable lines and communicate, for the most part, verbally.

Many people would say that I’m neurodivergent — a term that encompasses not only autism but also dyslexia, A.D.H.D. and other learning problems. The popularization of the term neurodivergence and society’s growing understanding about the different ways that brains work are unquestionably positive developments for many individuals like me.

Still, many aspects of our society are not set up to allow visual thinkers — which so many of us neurodivergent folks are — to thrive. In fact, many aspects of our society seem set up specifically so we will fail. Schools force students into a one-size-fits-all curriculum. The workplace relies too much on résumés and G.P.A.s to assess candidates’ worth. This must change not only because neurodivergent people, and all visual thinkers, deserve better but also because without a major shift in how we think about how we learn, innovation worldwide will be stifled.

I estimate that 20 percent of the skilled welders and drafting technicians are autistic or dyslexic, or had A.D.H.D. There are at least two people with autism who hold numerous patents for mechanical devices they invented and who sold equipment to many companies. Their visual thinking skills are key to our success.

Today, we want our students to be well rounded; we should think about making sure that the education we provide is as well. At the same time, I wager that the people who will fix infrastructure in the future have spent hours and hours on one thing, whether it be art, music or chess — hyper-focus is a classic sign of neurodivergent thinking and it’s critical for innovation and invention.

The greatest example of a successful neurodivergent person is Alan Turing who cracked the Enigma Code during World War II. He won the war by cracking the code. But he was appallingly badly treated because he was homosexual. The drugs he was given destroyed his ability to function normally. He also invented the first computer called the Turin machine. We all of us owe him a debt of gratitude, every single one of us in the world owns a computer and or a cellular phone which is derived from the Turin machine.

The first step for schools must be to put more of an emphasis on hands-on classes such as art, music, sewing, woodworking, cooking, theater, auto mechanics and welding. I would have hated school if the hands-on classes had been removed, as so many have been today. These classes expose students — especially neurodivergent students — to skills that could become a career. Exposure is key. Too many students are growing up who have never used a tool. They are completely removed from the practical world. The true measure of an education isn’t what grades students get today, but where they are 10 or 20 years later.

The information for this blog is taken from an opinion in the New York Times by Temple Grandin. Ms. Grandin is a professor of animal science at Colorado State University and the author of “Visual Thinking: The Hidden Gifts of People Who Think in Pictures, Patterns and Abstractions.”:

Walter Wickiser Gallery is exhibiting my ‘Fire Underwater’ paintings online at Artsy from February to 1st May 2023. Click below to visit the exhibition: