The way children with autism draw people

Drawings of humans by children with autism tend to lack variety, researchers have found, possibly reflecting the unusual way they think about and relate to other people.

Anthony Lee and Peter Hobson compared drawings by 14 autistic children (aged 8 to 15) with drawings by 14 non-autistic children who were learning disabled. When the children were asked to draw two houses followed by their own house, they all tended to draw three houses each looking different to the next. However, when the children were asked to draw a female person, a male person and to also draw themselves, crucial differences between the groups emerged – the non-autistic children tended to draw three distinct figures, but the autistic children tended to draw three human figures that varied little from one to the other. The autistic children’s drawings of people were just as detailed but they lacked variation.

“…[T]here is evidence that [autistic] children’s sense of individual kinds and characters of people, and their concepts of themselves, are less infused with personal qualities than are those of people without autism – and undifferentiated human figures would be one result”, the researchers said.

Lee, A. & Hobson, R.P. (2006). Drawing self and others: How do children with autism differ from those with learning difficulties? British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 24, 547-565.

Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.

2 thoughts on “The way children with autism draw people”

  1. Unless the children had been told to imbue the drawings with character the conclusion, that the children’s views of themselves are less infused with personal qualities, is somewhat hasty. People, as any artist will tell you, are very similar to look at and autistic children are known to take instructions quite literally.

    1. I beg to differ, I’m personally reviewing this topic out of curiosity due to several galleries in the internet of people drawing the same thing over and over. Here is one of the examples I found. This person has been drawing the same character with a very slight difference in each drawing, seems to have an obsession for “Ultraman” and “My Little Pony” and I believe this person is an adult. Viewing the statistics in his account, it has about 2500 drawings made in 3 years, that’s about 6.5 drawings daily, more than enough to improve his skills, though he decides to draw the same thing over and over with only mild differences.
      Note: There are many galleries like this in the same website.

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