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Job Skillset: Autism - Feature, not a Flaw

Updated on January 28, 2014

Definitions

Before diving into the commentary, let's take a look at Autism and how it is defined and diagnosed.

The Autism Speaks site kindly shares the full criteria for an autism spectrum diagnosis, as per the DSM V. It is rather lengthy, so I'll summarize here for the sake of saving you some time, dear reader.

A very simplistic definition of autism is: When people have problems communicating verbally and non-verbally in ways that are considered appropriate to the given interactive session. whether that involves greetings, recognizing topic changes in conversations and responding accordingly, and recognizing, and responding appropriately to, other social and communication cues.

The Autism Spectrum "Disorder"

Principium

I was doing some light reading last night on the Autism spectrum by way of a few articles about the changes to the Autism entries in the DSM V, and it occurred to me that:

  • Autistic individuals don't need to be cured (medium to high functioning, that is)
  • People are still looking at autism incorrectly, because
  • Autistic people are still useful, at the very least in the working world

Cure Shmure

Making the Labour Case

Look, there are still jobs that humans need to be doing because of the limitations of tech, yes? Employers, just think of people with autism as "specialists".

There are at least a couple of potentially useful things happening with auties. First, this is likely an untapped work force that is genetically wired to obsess over whatever it is their neurons are hyper-firing about. That means that not only are they very less likely to walk out on the job, if it pushes their autistic button the right way, but, given the ridiculous stigma still being put on these people, they'll probably happily work for less just to have a place to "belong" AND an occupation that tickles their amped up neurons.

Secondly, no non-autistic person could possibly compete with the level of attention and detail to a given task that an autie has a genetic predisposition to excel in. Employers, TAP INTO THAT while the tech is still too undeveloped to replace your human workforce with machines.

Accounting? Mathematics? Legal Documentation and Verification, as examples? Who the hell is more suited for that kind of anal retentive attention to detail than someone whose autism manifests itself as a perfect match for the job??? Hire these people!

The trick, of course, is that you have to build environments that suit your autie's disposition and removes his/her mind from anything but its obsession. Some may not want to be around people, some may need quiet spaces to work their magic.

Seriously, you'll never see more devotion, to the point that any distractions like social lives will be utterly brushed aside, to getting the job done than devotion from someone whose brain is genetically wired to do that thinking and do it outstandingly.

Non Social Labour

Is there such a thing as completely "non-social" labour for humans?

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1 in 88

I found an interesting statistic that suggested that 1 in 88 kids is autistic, which is a huge rise from the 70's or 80's when it was 1 in 150.

Think about that for a second (and put your tin foil hat on). A labor force comprised of humans who care little for anything/anyone outside their internal psychological realm of comfort. They may not argue or fight about their working conditions as long as their psychological need is being stimulated consistently. That means less attrition, less talk about raises and other revenue risks.

If I were the conspiracy theorist kind of individual, I'd say what a perfect marriage of coincidences that more and more human offspring are being born autistic and will be entering the workforce carrying these special needs with them, and may be open to working for, and living with, less in order to have the comfort of being employed.

A Brave New World, indeed.

Finitio

I'm telling you, oh captains of industry, start building your work environments to better accommodate the needs of functioning autistic people, and your work force will be unmatched in your industry. Just do the rest of us a favour, and keep a lot of them out of management roles and roles that involve extensive social interaction, depending upon the individuals flavour of autism of course, because nothing ruins a perfectly happy working environment like needlessly anal retentive bosses.

Soc Intel

Is social intelligence still critical to the performance of most non-human-facing jobs?

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