The Life Autistic: We’re Great at Anomaly Detection (but that’s Terrible)


If you thought anomaly detection was just a data science thing, then you need to meet more autistic people.

We’re great at it.

And it’s TERRIBLE.

I hate it. Hate. Hate. Hate.

But why?

So, we autistic folks are precociously good with patterns, routines, repetition — if it’s something predictable, recurring, then we bake it into the landscape as if to help us answer: “This is what normal looks and feels like. These are my signposts. This is how I know.”

Oh, I’m sure you’d love the power.

The ability to step into a day and notice that something’s . . . different. Off. Abnormal. Anomalous.

Like the one hero in the bunch who smells that something fishy, almost like a preternatural power.

Sorry folks, but that strength doesn’t get us the cool looks from others with us.

Not even close.

Here’s why it’s a terrible skill.



Just that.


Why is this different? Why does this atmosphere feel so off? Why is this person different today? This week? Why did today seem so awkward.

We know something’s up.

We can sense it.

The peril is rarely knowing why.

People don’t tell us. Or worse, won’t tell us.

Situations don’t unravel.

Not every pattern deviates with purpose.

The anomalies in our environment are cruel: obvious but unrevealing.

Ignorance is a bliss, humming from day to day, interaction to interaction gleefully unaware.

Not in The Life Autistic.

Where we sense the changes, pick up the imperceptible, detect the anomalies.

And get no answers why.


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