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.