Guest Author - Tara O'Gorman, MSW
I recently read an article about another company, Exceptional Minds, which hires adults on the autism spectrum to work for Hollywood studios. While companies such as Goodwill, Microsoft, and Walgreens are known for training and employing people with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), I was excited to find this company was specifically created to train and employ those with autism.
A friend mentioned it to me because he knew my son has Asperger’s and is interested in animation and film. He is an engineer and said he has no doubt he works with a lot of people on the spectrum, diagnosed or not. We had a long conversation about ASD and careers. I was excited to talk more about Exceptional Minds and discuss ‘typical’ autistic traits that appeal to many employers.
As I discussed my experiences, I used the phrase ‘without passion, pride, or prejudice’ to sum up my feelings as to why those with ASD would be desirable in the workplace, particularly in engineering, computers, or in any field that requires acute attention to detail. I love and appreciate how open and forward my son and my friends with ASD can be when you ask them for an opinion. I must be honest and say that ‘without passion’ definitely does not always apply. Ask my son to discuss the makeup of Wolverine’s claws. He will VERY passionately describe bone vs. metal and the various versions of Wolverine and the specific material making up the claws, depending on the interpretation of the story. But ask him if my butt looks big in these jeans, and he will say ‘yes’ without a second thought if it is his belief. I learned long ago, be careful what you ask for!
For many jobs where detail is key, a person with ASD would be an ideal employee. While some people are macro-focused, many with ASD may not focus on the big picture because they are fascinated by, or irked by, the small details. If there is a mistake, they will take note and take the initiative to correct it. If a piece of a story does not match the history, they may quickly recall the details. If a large piece of equipment is not working, the detail-oriented mind may quickly pinpoint the area that is failing and resolve to correct the problem.
While social skills, tact, and sensory issues may be barriers to employment in some fields, the right training and environment is instrumental in employing those with ASD. Companies can train staff to recognize and appreciate the ‘quirky’ aspects that employees with ASD may possess, while utilizing the skills and abilities that also make them quality employees.
They will focus on the small details and not be swayed by political correctness. If something appears wrong, they will determine to fix the issue and not be overly concerned with accolades or blame. Hyperfocus, attentiveness to details, being task-oriented, and a lack of gross concern with office political correctness make employees with ASD highly desirable in many industries. There is a problem, and it needs a solution: without passion, pride, or prejudice.