Aspergers and Autism Introduction
It is certainly difficult to see any gifts in those who are severely autistic. Sometimes, however, children who have been diagnosed as autistic, including those who have lost their ability to speak, have later begun speaking again and some have managed to succeed in school, going on to college and doing well. It is unlikely that all severely autistic children have this potential, but I am hopeful that further progress will be made in this area.
Thomas Armstrong in his book, Neurodiversity, writes
Autistic people are seen in terms of what they can’t do (empathize) rather than in terms of what they can do (systematize.) Their personal interests are often seen as “obsessional” … or “splinter skills” instead of being appreciated for what they are: a specific fascination with a particular system. p. 59
People with Autism or Aspergers may well be far more intelligent than their scores on traditional IQ tests. When they are tested on nonverbal tests such as Embedded Figures, Raven’s Progressive Matrices and Block Design, “scores of autistic children increase from 30 to 70 percentile points. (Armstrong p. 65) This should not be surprising in that many of these students think in pictures rather than words.
It is often recognized that people with Aspergers can focus intently, do depth research, and remember what they have learned in their areas of special interests.
In Denmark, Thorkil Sonne worked in a software company. When his third son, Lars, was diagnosed with Autism, his father began looking for ways to help his son and others with Autism or Aspergers to have better chances to succeed in a job. Sonne described the strengths of people with Autism or Aspergers:
1. They are methodical and pay great attention to detail.
2. They are highly motivated.
3. They can focus on their work.
4. They are persistent.
5. They are able to follow directions
These abilities are all important for serious students, so college students with Aspergers should have an advantage in classes, compared to other students.
Thorkil Sonne began a new company for software testing and hired only people with Aspergers to do the testing. These workers did such excellent work that they made only one tenth the number of mistakes made by workers in a similar company. This company is called “Specialisterne,” Danish for “The Specialists.” They train their staff for several months. While some work in this company, other are hired to work in other companies . One of their ads is below:
We all know what it’s like to lose our concentration once in a while when our tasks become too dull. And we all know about skipping details when they become too overwhelming. However, this is not the case for Specialisterne (The Specialists) who have tested Windows XP Media Centre for Microsoft. They have autism, and are therefore exceptionally gifted.”
Armstrong (p.205) quotes this from Austin, Wareham, and Busquet: Specialisterne: Sense and Detail, p.18
Since then, there have been branches of Specialisterne in several countries and similar efforts in many other places. Some of these organizations train their workers in Agriculture and other areas.
When you begin looking for a career, you might check websites for Specialisterne and these will lead you to similar programs closer to where you live. If looking for work in a regular company, begin by explaining that you have Aspergers and that, while you will not do well in jobs where you need to socialize with other people, you can work extremely well on —- and fill this in for your own interests, talents and training.
The next page will describe several examples of those with Autism and Aspergets who have done very well in life. While we can’t all go on to earn our doctorate and succeed like these people, we can raise our hopes and ambitions knowing about the success of others.