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The Monteiro Descriptive Triangle


Dr. Monteiro developed the Descriptive Triangle to help families and clinicians have a context for understanding the autism spectrum brain style instead of hearing the words “autism” or “autistic” without a common point of reference. The conversation begins by recognizing patterns of differences in development, or patterns of differences in brain style, or patterns of neurodivergence. Systematically describing the individual’s patterns of strengths and differences in three key areas helps reveal the story of each person’s unique and singular autism spectrum brain style profile.


The three key areas of the Descriptive Triangle are depicted below. Click on each of the three areas to read a sample description of strengths and differences that are oftentimes seen in individuals with autism spectrum brain style differences. Comprehensive Descriptive Triangle profiles of strengths and differences are provided in Dr. Monteiro’s various publications and are taught in her online workshops.

Language and Communication


Uses verbal language fluently

Is beginning to understand verbal language when paired with visual contextual cues



Managing incoming verbal demands is hard work for the individual’s brain

Simultaneously organizing, retrieving and using language while managing input from a conversational partner is a source of stress

Social Relationships and Emotions


Establishes connections with others through sharing interests

Feels deeply and experiences a range of emotions


Hard work for the individual’s brain to interpret and manage extended social exchanges

Experiences the destabilizing pattern of rapidly shifting from experiencing regulation to dysregulation or the brain switching from “thinking” to “reacting”


Sensory Use and Interests


Often has well developed visuospatial thinking abilities and applies this to areas of passionate interest

Object and topic-focused routines help the individual experience a sense of organization and regulation while blocking out the stress inherent in incoming demands


Pronounced areas of sensory sensitivities can be a source of stress and distress

Hard work at times for the individual to flexibly shift from their agenda to follow the agenda of others

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