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At This Chicago Employer, Asperger’s Syndrome Is a Job Requirement

by Feb 21, 2011, 5:20 am ET

It has been tried in Denmark and now near Chicago: hiring and training people with Asperger’s — a form of autism — to work on detail-oriented tasks where they excel.

Brenda Weitzberg is the founder of Aspiritech, which is offering services to employers looking for test software, hardware, websites, applications, and computer bugs, using her staff of Asperger’s employees.

Barbara Bissonnette

On the podcast below, Weitzberg talks about employing people with Asperger’s. Also on the line is another expert: Barbara Bissonnette. She specializes in coaching and advocacy services for individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome, and consults with employers about how to get the most out of these employees.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  • Martin Snyder

    The only ‘disability’ I know of that implies (from time to time) what amounts to superpowers.

    Arbitrage opportunity too because 95% of staffing and performance “best practices” rule these people out, and in the right situations, they can perform off the chart. Often they are outstanding customer advocates and although lacking in surface empathy, they are often selfless and gentle spirits.

    It can be tricky to identify aspies unless you know and love a few; then you can probably do it reliably within minutes of meeting one. Look for the limp handshake, lack of eye-contact, unusual and unrequested detail when answering questions, seeming lack of direction (in conversation) and sometimes subtle repeating physical movements, esp. when thinking or stressing, and a near total lack of recognition of implied social status, but deep concern with outward markers of rank and prestige.

    Aspies have sometimes elaborate and effective compensating techniques that can themselves be as tricky as the actual condition- telling you what they think you want to hear is one of them, and showing signs of engagement when not actually engaged is another. They can be too gullable and too skeptical at the same time. Many are hopeless as investments, but some can give the ROI of a lifetime.

    A good recruiter, esp. in tech, can serve a key role. Helping co-workers understand what the deal is can help hugely- people are almost always highly accepting when they understand the upside (and downsides) of working with people on the spectrum, but they can become very angry and confused when they don’t.

    Like any investment with a big multiplier, they can be risky, but for some, well worth the effort to identify, cultivate, and deploy.

  • Paul Reisman

    My son is 16 and is an Aspie. I am a 63 year old Aspie, but have only been aware of it for the last 10 years. I have successfullt operated my own HR/OD consulting firm for the last 25 years.

    While I generally agree with what Martin says, it is important to be aware that Aspies are as varied a group as is any other group of people. You will find all sorts of personality types within the Aspie group. Many have analtyical / detail oriented skills. However, others are expressives with writing, acting, drawing and singing talents. There are a few lists on the internet of famous / celebrity Aspies that many would be surprized to see since they do not resemble the types that Martin referred to in his post.

    Paul Reisman
    Montreal
    Proud to be an Aspie

  • Martin Snyder

    Paul no question broad-brush statements have lots of exceptions.

    ASD’s are often associated with physical clumsiness, but look at surfer Clay Marzo- hardly the mold of uber-geek.

  • Keith Halperin

    A few things;
    1) As one Asper guy I know said:” Aspergers: We’re the new ‘gay’!”
    2) He also said (re: neuro-typical or “normal people”): “It’s their world- we just run it….”
    2) To see some profiles of Aspers (http://science.discovery.com/videos/ingenious-minds-asperger-syndrome.html) and other savants, go to http://science.discovery.com/tv/ingenious-minds/ or watch the show on Thursdays on Science Channel.

    Keith

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