The diagnosis of autism spectrum issues, including Asperger’s, is on the rise. One in 88 children and one in 54 boys are diagnosed with having autism spectrum at some point. Autism interferes with people-reading and communication skills, and many people who fall on the autism spectrum struggle with empathy, reading body language, and understanding social cues. The symptoms of autism can make employment challenging, even among highly intelligent people who have autism. But the advent of new technologies is allowing people with autism to capitalize on their unique gifts while avoiding situations that tend to activate symptoms of autism.
How Autism Can Affect a Career
People with autism frequently have above-average intelligence, but intelligence isn’t the only key to getting a good career. Less than 20% of people with Asperger’s are employed full-time, for example. Autism can interfere with social and communication skills, which play key roles in finding and keeping a job. People with autism can struggle to read subtle cues in interviews, may not develop strong relationships with their colleagues, and may have habits or behaviors that their co-workers find strange.
Skills of Autism
In recent years, many people with autism have advocated for talking about the unique skills many people with autism have, rather than focusing on weaknesses. Some people with autism or Asperger’s have obsessive tendencies, and can focus for hours on a single task. They may prefer logic and science rather than the world of social interactions and emotions.
Penelope Trunk, a blogger with Asperger’s, itemizes the ways in which she works differently from others, emphasizing that social niceties can feel frustrating for her. She also points out that many people with the disorder tend to focus on facts rather than subjective sensations, and may get caught up in a cycle of correcting other people’s work or directly telling others when they are wrong.
Jobs in Technology
Careers in technology can help people with autism-spectrum disorders capitalize on their strengths while avoiding frustrating and confusing situations. National Public Radio (NPR), for example, recently reported on the nonPareil Institute, an organization that provides computer training to young adults on the autism spectrum. People with autism who have skills in technology may have better luck finding jobs. Computer programming doesn’t necessarily require strong communication and empathy skills, and the repetitive, logical, and scientific nature of the work can appeal to many people with autism. If more people with issues on the spectrum move into careers in technology, the unemployment rate among people with Asperger’s and autism could go down, and autism might be reframed as a unique skill set, rather than as a liability.
- Autism spectrum disorders. (n.d.). WebMD. Retrieved from webmd.com/brain/autism/autism-spectrum-disorders
- Jobs and resources for autistic young adults. (n.d.). JobsforAutism. Retrieved from http://www.jobsforautism.com/
- Silverman, L. (2013). Young adults with autism can thrive in high-tech jobs. NPR. Retrieved from npr.org/blogs/health/2013/04/22/177452578/young-adults-with-autism-can-thrive-in-high-tech-jobs
- Standifer, S., PhD. (2009). Adult autism and employment [PDF]. University of Missouri Health System.
- Trunk, P. (2009). Asperger’s at work: Why I’m difficult in meetings. Penelope Trunk. Retrieved from blog.penelopetrunk.com/2009/10/29/aspergers-at-work-why-im-difficult-in-meetings/
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