When you hear the word Asperger’s, what kind of person do you think of?
Asperger’s Syndrome (ASP) is a type of mild autism that affects an average of 1 in 88 children in the US. In popular media, there are certain stereotypes attributed to people with Asperger’s (just think of Sheldon Cooper from TV’s Big Bang Theory). Often, due to their unusual gifts and behavior, highly creative and gifted people are labeled with Asperger’s, especially if they are socially awkward.
Furthermore, there’s been a trend recently where “experts” diagnose famous people with Asperger’s posthumously. The list of “diagnosed” includes Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, George Washington, and many others. Obviously, such post-mortem diagnoses are nonsense. Diagnosing Asperger’s is a difficult process and such diagnosis can only be established by psychiatrists or psychologists. They typically use specialized psychoeducational assessments to diagnose Asperger’s syndrome.
Asperger’s is clearly not a simple condition. It can be difficult for coworkers of people with Asperger’s to understand. Many employers are obviously concerned about how someone with Asperger’s will socially fit in as part of the team. In fact, roughly 80% of people with Asperger’s do not have full-time work. However, the truth is that people with Asperger’s can be valuable assets to any company, as long as the social limitations of Asperger’s are understood. Actually, the behavioral traits that often come along with Asperger’s can prove to be great strengths in the right positions.
Here are 8 reasons why you should hire someone with Asperger’s.
1. Excellent long-term memory
Positions that require a lot of short-term memory can be difficult for people with Asperger’s; however, this is balanced out by the fact that people with Asperger’s often have excellent long-term memory and an astonishing ability to recall details. That’s part of why so many people with the syndrome are able to become experts in a particular field. The stress of tasks that do require short-term memory can be reduced by providing written instruction, color-coded instructions, and a quiet workspace free of distractions.
2. Ability to focus on details and accuracy
People with Asperger’s often have difficulty multi-tasking, but this is made up for in their ability to focus on the minute details of a project with accuracy. This makes people with Asperger’s particularly good for jobs that require an acute attention to detail, like computer programming, engineering, handcrafts, accounting, copy editing, commercial art, and a whole whack of other jobs, depending on their strengths and interests.
3. Ability to recognize patterns that others cannot
This ties in with an attention to detail. Because people with Asperger’s are able to focus on projects on an up-close, detailed level, they can often recognize patterns that others who focus on the bigger picture may miss.
4. Often comfortable with doing a lot of solitary work
Asperger’s can make it difficult and stressful for individuals with the syndrome to work in a crowded and busy environment. That’s why people with the syndrome are often comfortable with putting in long hours on solitary work, whereas other people would get lonely or bored working by themselves. In fact, many people with Asperger’s work best in spaces where they only have to conduct one-on-one interactions and are able to communicate primarily by email. This can be useful for positions like computer programming, drafting, janitorial work, and handcrafts.
5. Strong logic and analytical skills
A common trait of Asperger’s is to become fixated on a certain subject, project, or task. The ability to apply extreme focus to one task means that people with Asperger’s may look more closely and analytically at something than others. This enables them to solve problems and make connections on a detailed level. These skills come in handy for technical careers, like mathematicians, engineers, analysts, as well as careers like journalism and web design.
6. Ability to tolerate repetitive tasks and routines
Tasks that are repetitive and follow a regular routine are less stressful and distracting than tasks that require constantly switching gears. People with Asperger’s often don’t mind completing repetitive tasks and routines. This makes them good for positions like telemarketing, clerk and filing jobs, factory assembly work, restocking shelves, data entry, and more.
7. Ability to think outside of the box and find creative solutions
People with Asperger’s have a unique perspective of the world. Hans Asperger, the German doctor who discovered the syndrome, believed that people with the syndrome were some of the most creative people, having the “ability to turn away from the everyday world, from the simply practical and to rethink a subject with originality.” This can make them great entrepreneurs, tech creators, artists, and academics. These are fields where quirky and unique perspectives are valued.
8. A strong sense of perseverance
People with Asperger’s face a unique set of challenges. Because of that, they have to work hard to get to the same position as someone without Asperger’s would. Penelope Trunk, a successful entrepreneur with Asperger’s, says that in order for people with Asperger’s to have a successful career, they need to be very good at something so that others will accept their quirks. This necessity drove her to work hard to become an expert at starting companies.
Everyone is different
Probably the most important thing to remember is that every person is different. It’s important that employers and coworkers recognize the benefits that people with Asperger’s syndrome can offer when placed in the right role. That said, they shouldn’t expect every person with Asperger’s to be good at the same things. Expectations based on stereotypes can put undue pressure on people with the syndrome, who may feel that they won’t live up to the expectations of others.
The behavioral traits of one person with Asperger’s can vary greatly from another. This can range from being shy and having difficulty with social interactions, to being charming and talkative, just with a tendency of asking too many questions. Get to know the person for who they are as an individual and embrace the unique talents that they have to offer.