The World Health Organization summarises the different autism spectrum diagnoses under the term ‘neurodevelopmental disorders’. However, the term ‘disorder’ is increasingly replaced by the notion of ‘neurodiversity’. This approach recognises that autism isn’t a disease but rather a demographic on a par with ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation. An autism spectrum diagnosis includes the following criteria:
- (Qualitative) differences in social interaction
- (Qualitative) differences in communication
- Limited, repetitive or stereotyped behaviours, interests or activities
Are you on the autism spectrum?
The ‘Autism Spectrum Quotient’ was developed by the Autism Research Centre (ARC) at the University of Cambridge. It gives a useful initial insight into whether someone may qualify for a formal diagnosis, but please bear in mind that the test itself is by no means diagnostic.
Please visit the ARC website for further information.
The autism spectrum
As autism affects each individual differently, we refer to an autism spectrum. Just like any non-autistic, each person on the autism spectrum has a unique profile of characteristics. It can sometimes be hard to believe that two autistic persons should have the same diagnosis as signs and symptoms can vary considerably. Their often exceptional personalities and biographies are what makes Auticon consultants one-of-a-kind.
The autism spectrum includes three basic diagnoses. However, as autistic symptoms are extremely diverse, diagnoses aren’t always clear-cut.
Hans Asperger (doctor and eponym of the Asperger syndrome, 1906-1980) considered the ‘autistic disorder’ part of a normal continuum of human abilities. Their often above-average cognitive skills allow many persons with Asperger syndrome to compensate for any autism-related difficulties – hence Asperger syndrome is referred to as a ‘hidden disability’ and is often only diagnosed later in life. Receiving a diagnosis as an adult helps many to account for misunderstood behaviours in the individual’s past.
Autistic talent can enhance your business.
Autism-specific strengths are highly individualistic but frequently include
- distinctive logical and analytical abilities
- sustained concentration and perseverance even when tasks are repetitive
- conscientiousness, loyalty and sincerity
- an exceptional eye for details, deviations and potential errors
- continuously thorough target/actual comparisons and a genuine awareness for quality
- a strong interest in factual matters and comprehensive technical expertise
People with Asperger Syndrome perceive things differently and often excel in so-called ‘special interests’.
A different point of view
People on the autism spectrum perceive things differently than non-autistics. Non-autistic persons usually perceive holistically and subsequently break perceptual input down into singular modules and details. Autistic persons on the other hand are more likely to initially perceive basic structures and details and then integrate this information into holistic concepts.
Within occupational contexts, this alternative perspective on one and the same concept bears a significant potential for additional insights.
Many people with Asperger syndrome are able to recognise patterns in large structures or data sets quickly and effortlessly. Due to their ‘bottom-up’ perceptual style, deviations and errors flag up immediately. This unique skill is highly valuable in the analysis and evaluation of mass data but also within compliance and quality assurance frameworks.
Having one or more special interests is common for people with Asperger syndrome. Special interests are highly intensive hobbies in which the individual gathers comprehensive expertise and technical knowledge. Typical special interests of people on the autism spectrum are logically or systematically structured domains including mathematics, physics, languages, music, engineering, IT or statistics; although some also thrive in creative areas or the humanities.
A genuine awareness for quality
Many people with Asperger syndrome don’t need to search for errors – errors or deviations simply pop up like a red flag. Some people on the autism spectrum go as far as saying that mistakes cause them physical discomfort. This unique characteristic paired with a genuine awareness for quality and the sustained concentration on repetitive tasks makes people on the autism spectrum valuable employees in the field of software testing, quality assurance or compliance.
Despite their exceptional qualities, some people on the autism spectrum find everyday communication and social interactions in the workplace challenging.
Smalltalk, an increased sensitivity to sensory input, interpreting nonverbal signals (facial expressions, body language), as well as irony and idioms may cause continuous stress for some on the autism spectrum. Many on the autism spectrum tend to see rules as absolutes and find it difficult to accept output that isn’t up to standard or to work around unexpected changes flexibly. On one hand, this makes them highly conscientious members of staff; on the other hand it gives way to misunderstandings in social and occupational contexts – particularly so if co-workers or supervisors aren’t aware of their colleagues’ autism diagnosis.
According to current estimates, only 10-15% of adults with Asperger syndrome are in qualified employment within the mainstream labour market.
Job Coaches: Shifting the focus towards autism-specific strengths
Auticon employs qualified job coaches in order to create work environments that allow our colleagues on the autism spectrum to fulfil their potential.
Our job coaches shape the Auticon recruitment and employment process, individually support consultants in communication matters and facilitate smooth project procedures. Job coaches act as a medium between clients and Auticon consultants and offer advice and counsel to both parties on demand. Job coaches operate by the principle: ‘As little support as possible but as much as needed’. Accordingly, they mostly act in the background and aren’t based with consultants on site.
The job coaches’ work includes
- briefing clients and offering advice on how to create an autism-friendly work environment
- preparing consultants on the autism spectrum for the social demands of a client’s specific work environment
- individualised, on demand support for consultants
- mediating feedback between clients and consultants