As I have said before, it is a common misconception that Autism is a childhood disorder. But, if you are born with autism, is it here to stay. One may learn to “mask”, for better or worse, and blend in, but one will always be autistic. There is no cure. This is probably not what a lot of parents of newly diagnosed children want to hear. They want a cure and they want it now! So, let’s look at some of the very positive sides of autism, and why hiring someone on the spectrum can be a great addition to your team.
- Attention to detail. People on the spectrum are thorough in their work and very accurate. They can see the tiny details that others on the team may miss.
- Deep Focus. When I am into a project that interests me, their is no stopping me. My husband says I become “monomaniacal”. My abilities to focus and concentrate deeply are intense. When I am really into a project I am unable to be distracted from it. Literally, a bomb could go off in the next room and I would hardly flinch.
- Observational Skills. Autistic children and adults do best with a listen, look, learn approach. Let them explore with all of their senses and then turn them loose. They are never happier then when they are observing and digging up new and interesting facts.
- The ability to retain and absorb facts. Most persons on the spectrum have excellent long term memories and superior recall. Small children may recount for you, verbatim, an event that happened five years ago. This will stand them in good stead when they enter the work force, as they rarely miss a trick.
- Visual Skills. Autistics are fantastic at visual learning and, once again, have great recall. They are incredibly detail focused. This ties back into my earlier point about attention to detail. This is the kind of computer programmer you want analyzing your code for bugs.
- Experts in their area. Autistics have incredible in-depth knowledge of the things that interest them. They also have a high level of skills in this area. Sometimes these things are just for fun, such as when I became fascinated with the six wives of Henry the 8th, as a child. I could talk for hours about the Tudor family. Did this do me much good in the working world? No, but I learned to turn my laser sharp focus on to the things I needed to be successful in my career.
- Methodical Approach. Autistics are often very analytical and excellent at spotting patterns and repetitions. This is useful for computer programmers, musicians, and mathematicians.
- Novel Approaches. Autistics have unique thought processes. They see the world through a different lens. Think of Temple Grandin pretending she was a cow and looking through the eyes of a cow in her job dealing with the meat packing industry. She looked a the world the way a cow would and thus revolutionized humane animal treatment. Her ideas were innovative and they worked. She, like many others on the spectrum knows how to think outside the box. Come to think of it, I am not certain that autistics know how think wiithin the box! It may be startling to a boss to see their employee take what seems a totally random approach to a problem, but wait and see what the solution is. It may be something ground breaking.
- Creativity. Autistics have vivid imaginations and unique ways of expressing their ideas. Once, again, I refer you to Temple Grandin thinking as a cow.
- Tenacity and Resilience. I often imagine myself as a bull dog when I get into a project. I latch onto an idea and work it out, often with a lot of blood, sweat and tears, until I get to a good solution. As Robert says, I am monomaniacal. The part of this trait that may be startling to bosses it their employee may challenge long standing opinions or beliefs. It is the job of the person on the spectrum to learn enough tact to present a new idea with diplomacy, rather than telling his/her boss that the way the company has been doing things for the last 10 years is stupid!
- Accepting of differences. Autistics are much less likely to judge others. By and large, we do not judge others, we just want to keep our heads down and do our work. On the other hand, this does not mean that we won’t question norms!
- Integrity. If you hire a person on the spectrum, they will give you their all. They are honest, loyal and will be a committed part of you team.
This blog came to me in the middle of the night during a violent thunderstorm. I had one dog under the bed, whimpering, and another tucked under my arm, shaking. Obviously, sleep was not going to happen. So, I started thinking about all the positive things that can come to an employer if they would take chance on that interviewee who seems to march to the beat of the their own calliope. They may not have had the most polished interview, but why don’t you give them a task to do and watch them go to work? I promise you, you will not be disappointed.