More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Aspergers and Employment
by Rudy Simone
March 12, 2011

We make great employees because of Aspergers, not despite it

All of a sudden everyone's talking about the issue of employment and Asperger Syndrome, a subject which I wrote about last year in my book, Asperger's on the Job. People on the spectrum make great employees precisely because of Aspergers, not in spite of it.

Our aversion to socializing, chit chat, our desire to focus on the tasks at hand, make us desirable employees to any sensible employer. But what we find when we get into the workplace is that we are judged on social issues, not on the quality of our work.

People may find our tics unnerving, our aversion to eye contact suspicious, our ability to throw a social conversation off track annoying. We have our own way of thinking, our own way of communicating, and since we are a minority, our behavior is seen as inappropriate. Tosh, so what if we'd rather talk about our special interests, which may be as diverse as science, art, music, math, etc. than talk about what Charlie Sheen is up to. We see that as irrelevant nonsense. We don't want to be a team player, unless of course, it is called for. While firefighters certainly need to have each others' backs, there is no need for such emphasis on 'the team' if you're an accountant or some other more solitary worker. The open plan office has been proven to be counter-productive; I even quoted government reports in my book that back this up. There's too much distraction to stay focused, and creative thoughts go out the window as creativity needs a quiet gestation period to flourish. This is true even for NTs (nonautistics) who enjoy the presence and energy of others. The open plan office exists merely to save money, but smart companies know that a lot of work today can be done from home. With computers, there's little need for people to even go to an office.

If you are worried about the aspie employee doing a good job without supervision, you needn't bother. Our motivation, if we like our job, comes from within. If you ask me to mow your lawn, paint your wall, or perform brain surgery, I will do the best job possible, as long as it is within my skill set. I do not need big brother watching me, and scrutiny, rather than helping me, makes me shut down. I need to know what you need and when you need it by. If detailed instructions are required, I'll write them down. I've heard of employers mocking aspie employees for extensive note taking. Ridiculous. It is how our minds work. I also require visual maps to know which way to turn when I come out of a building. Even if I go to that building frequently. It doesn't make me stupid. Just different.

I am tired of hearing about 'mainstreaming' us. The world is in flux, the economy is changing, the face of employment is changing. There are too many corporations telling humans how to behave. For many on the spectrum, a quiet, solitary craft will be their best employment option, from landscaping, to watch-making, writing, designing, painting, or inventing. Of course, whether we are self-employed or not, we still need social contact and social skills. But for the sake of others, who must work in an environment of many, there should be a concerted effort made to understand the autistic brain. Why it is different, how it is different.

People on the spectrum have a glass wall around them in any social situation. This affects our ability to hold relationships and jobs. We can see out, but often people don't bother to try and see in, more than superficially. If you have a co-worker or employee who is different, who has Aspergers or you suspect may, read about it. Take the time. Personally I think that autism sensitivity training should be mandated like sexual harassment training. But there's only 70+ million of us, so I guess that doesn't warrant it?

I'm happy that I work mostly alone, but it's not that I always wanted to lead this solitary life. It is that every time I put myself in an office, shop or restaurant, I was ridiculed, bullied and ostracized. Even today, when I'm performing in a comedy or jazz club, I see camaraderie among people I will never share. The only time I feel comfort and acceptance is when I'm alone, or presenting at an autism conference. Still, I have found a life that suits me. But it took decades to do so. I would rather spare our young people that pain.

Rudy Simone is the author of Asperger's on the Job among other books.

Daniel E.
The Untold Story: Experiences of Women with Autism in the Workforce | Information School | University of Washington

Women with autism face significant employment challenges due to being women and being with autism. We know very little in the way of research about their experiences. In the "Untold Story" we analyze 40 threads in the Career and Employment Category from the Reddit discussion group 'AsperGirls'. We use Annabi and Lebovitz (2018) Organizational Interventions Mitigating Individual Barriers Framework (OIMIB) to depict the barriers women with autism experience, the individual methods they use to mitigate the barriers, and the role organizational interventions play in mitigating these barriers. Our analysis reveals their stories and the unique challenges and opportunities they experience.

The Untold Story - YouTube

Daniel E.
It's Not Just About Attention to Details: Redefining the Talents Autistic Software Developers Bring to Software Development

Technology giants SAP, Google and Microsoft have recently begun hiring initiatives targeting individuals with Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC) for software development roles. In order to fully engage and include individuals with ASC, a deeper understanding of the cognitive style and talents of individuals with ASC is needed. In this paper we present an analysis of current cognitive theories of autism, and promote the theory of hyper-systemizing as one that best explains the talents and challenges that surface in ASC. We compare the talents of individuals with ASC to skills required of software developers and identify synergies between the developer skills and strengths of individuals with ASC, such as systemizing, information processing, and specialization of interests. Our analysis concludes with a synthesis of the strategies necessary to create inclusive workplaces that promote the professional development of individuals with ASC.

Daniel E.
Tips for Building an Autism Friendly Workplace

...Even going back to school days, it was creative people and environments that put me most at ease. And I begin to wonder at that -- why is it that creative people seem to be more understanding of differences? Does creativity somehow drive tolerance? Or does tolerance somehow drive innovation and creativity?

Now, that's an interesting question, isn't it? business environments which are successful in fostering innovation are environments where personal differences are respected...that's interesting. Could that be why such organizations are more comfortable for people like me? To what extent does this appreciation of cognitive differences drive tolerance and understanding of other differences, such as behavioral differences?

That's another interesting question.

In the end, I think the solution for many of the issues faced by those with Asperger's in the workplace boils down to a good management practice, and in fact, a good practice in general. And it's relatively simple.

Recognize that others are not like you. Not everyone shares your background, has the same skills and abilities, knows what you know, or experiences the world in the same way. Some people are more social, some less. Some have issues with loud noises, and flashing lights, some don't. Even body language is not as universal as some would have you believe.

It's easy to dismiss requests like "Please don't use idioms, they confuse me" as requests for special treatment, if it comes from a person on the spectrum. However, this statement could be equally true for an international colleague. Understanding and accommodating differences is something that makes everyone's work life better. It's not "special treatment" - it's just good sense.

Daniel E.

Average Salary: $80,396 (veterinarian), $33,699 (Veterinary Technician)

Because many people on the autism spectrum love and feel comfortable around animals, the jobs of veterinarian and veterinary technician were recommended to us over and over again as great jobs for people with autism. While a veterinarian is the main doctor for animals big and small, a veterinary technician meets each animal first and charts its weight, symptoms, and any concerns its owner may have.
Replying is not possible. This forum is only available as an archive.