10.5 Exploring Differences in Weather Knowledge and Perceptions in Autistic and Non-Autistic Individuals

Thursday, 11 January 2018: 11:30 AM
Ballroom E (ACC) (Austin, Texas)
Matthew J. Bolton, Saint Leo Univ., Saint Leo, FL; and W. G. Blumberg, H. M. Mogil, and L. K. Ault

In this talk we present the results of two studies which examined weather literacy/knowledge and salience - that is, how psychologically-significant weather is to someone - among individuals on the autism spectrum. Autism spectrum conditions (ASC) affect individuals’ cognitive development and information-processing abilities, and their overall communication and social skills. Research has shown that many autistics possess high levels of attention to detail, in addition to sensory-integration and processing differences which affect their perceptions of the world around them. Some of these differences result in what has been found (when compared to non-autistic individuals) to be a superior level of attention to detail and aptitude for pattern-recognition. Cognitive theory suggests that this is the result of minds which are naturally driven to seek logical patterns and rules, in a process known as “systemizing.” Theorizing that weather is a natural, logical system which involves a plethora of rules and patterns, we sought to examine between-groups weather knowledge, and whether or not autistic individuals find weather more psychologically salient than non-autistics. We will present our findings on autistic weather salience as they relate to current theoretical understanding of the systemizing construct, and also share the results of our knowledge test, with the hope that in doing so we may foster dialogue amongst meteorologists on ways this information may be better used to communicate critical weather information to autistic individuals.
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