Thursday, April 10, 2014

Forbes Piece on Autistic Workers

Forbes has a nice piece on hiring people with autism. In the piece they highlight Specialisterne, a company founded by a man whose son was diagnosed with autism.

People with autism are potentially great employees -- so long as you expect them to work and do not expect them to be social and engage in office politics.

More, people need to realize that when someone with autism fails to engage with people, that does not mean they are not interested in the job, in the situation, or even in getting promoted. It's not that a person with autism doesn't care whether they are there or not, as too often neurotypicals misinterpret the behaviors of those with autism, but rather that they are more engaged in the work than in talking up the work. Neurotypicals understand that you have to talk up your work, because otherwise your work won't speak for itself; those with autism think the quality of their work is self-evident.

The ideal situation for someone with autism is to have a place where they can work without interruption, with someone to bring things back and forth. For someone doing data entry, for example, just let them work and have someone bring the data to them, and you will have a data entry machine. But if the data stops coming, there is a certain probability that your autistic employee won't think to ask for more. They'll mostly just wonder what to do next.

If this sounds like a lot of hand-holding, you might consider the degree to which you have to deal with all of the social needs of your neurotypical employees. You may not recognize the degree to which you have to deal with such things, and the amount of time it takes up, precisely because you, too, are neurotypical, and such hand-holding seems more natural and less forced. But, if you see things from the autistics' standpoint, most social interactions are a bunch of time-wasting nonsense. This, of course, highlights the difficulties between autistics and neurotypicals.

Still, if you want employees who are powerful bottom-up, analytical thinkers with strong pattern recognition skills and attention to detail, you can't do better than someone with autism.

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