back to article Techies with Asperger's? Yes, we are a little different...

Shortly after being told I have Asperger's syndrome, I stood in front of 30-odd people, my work colleagues, telling them I have Asperger’s and what it means to them and to me. Some were like: "Meh, whatever!", some were busy looking their watches: "Is it lunchtime yet?" I could feel my job slowly ebbing away. It was like …


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  1. Slacker@work

    Hmmm interesing.... do you score on the artistic scale?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Enlightening Article but

      Is El Reg turning into some kind of therapy self help group?

      Now we have everyone reaching out, 'oh that must be me' or 'I have the same problems' etc.

      Self diagnosis on the basis that you 'might' be similar is fatal, it could just be that you are socially inadequate or your ears are blocked with wax or you listened to too much heavy rock and does not necessarily say that you are on the spectrum.

      If you really think you have a problem then get a proper diagnosis and I would suggest El Reg supplies an address.

      1. ChrisCabbage

        Re: Enlightening Article but

        I guess you didn't read as far as page 2 then!?

      2. Dr Stephen Jones

        Re: Enlightening Article but

        Haven't you heard AC? Everyone's a victim of some psychological or psychiatric disorder nowadays. DSM-5 leaves almost nothing unclssified. This creates lots of jobs for quacks, and that is not an accident.

        For people who identify with Asperger's this has some disadvantages. You will now be excluded from things you're perfectly capable of doing, like making a contribution to office politcs - because "you're an Aspie".

        Greenberg on quacks is worth a read:

        Adam Curtis has also covered this a lot in his BBC films:

        No one is allowed to be "a little different" now - or even "a little sad". The psychology and psychiatry industry has made sure of that. Any classification system which leaves you with less power than you had is a trap.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Enlightening Article but

        There is no such thing as too much heavy rock.

  2. Bronek Kozicki

    thanks for sharing

    I think I would be glad to work with someone like you. If I knew the rules :)

  3. Paul Slater

    Noise pollution

    One thing that is not always taken into consideration is the fact that a lot of Aspies (myself included) have a huge sound sensitivity issue. If too many people are talking at once either in a meeting or even just in the office, I feel an almost overwhelming urge to tell them all to stop shouting and to talk one at a time. It's not only very difficult to separate separate sound streams, it also makes it almost impossible to hold phone conversations. I've often left the room if I'm just sat at my desk and there is too much talking.

    Recently a radio was introduced into the office and the battle over which station and what volume was quite possibly the most stressful episode I've ever had to deal with in a ~30 year IT career. It's settled down now, so if it stays on 6 music at volume 5 or below I can just about work, but its introduction has been instrumental in me moving on to another job for another company.

    1. Novex

      Re: Noise pollution

      This is the first time I've heard someone mention an issue something like I've got - I find it very difficult to make out different strands of conversation when in a group, especially with other noises around, like say in a pub. It's like I can hear the sounds but can't interpret them.

      I far prefer to be in a quieter environment and with fewer people talking at once so that I can actually make out what is being said.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Noise pollution

        Count me in on the hearing with background noise difficulty. I actually went to a doctor who put me through a number of tests, then asked me: Do you hear very high-pitched noises e.g. a CRT even when others can't? Yes, absolutely! He went on to tell me my hearing was exceptionally good, it's just that my brain cannot separate different noises from one another properly.

        I've now given up on trying to follow conversations in pubs with music. I just smile knowingly, laugh when everyone else does and ask a friend for a summary of the important points afterwards.

        1. TheFiddler

          Re: Noise pollution

          That sounds a lot like me. Too many people talking at once, noisy pubs/locations etc and I just totally zone out of the conversations as it takes far too much effort to isolate the voice stream I want to be concentrating on unless someone has a very distinctive voice. On the flipside I've really good hearing and can hear the high pitched whine of switched power supplies, to the point that trying to get to sleep I wander round turning off phone chargers etc as the whine is too distracting. I'm glad to hear other people suffer from this issue.

        2. DaiKiwi

          Re: Noise pollution - Pubs & hearing CRTs

          That description fits me to a T, although nowadays my hearing cuts out at about 16kHz, so I probably couldn't hear the CRTs even if there were any about the office. Refresh rates that co-workers were happy with bugged me. In a a job I once had that had hot desking I used to go around the computers after work and reset the refresh rates to 80/85Hz.

          1. Martin Budden Silver badge

            Re: Noise pollution - Pubs & hearing CRTs

            Another plus one here. I have been tested as having unusually good hearing at high frequencies, and I find it difficult to differentiate voices in noisy environments.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Noise pollution - Pubs & hearing CRTs

              Same here. Actually, it depends on what the background noise is.

              If it's white noise, I'm usually not too bad. I'm an amateur radio operator, and when using single sideband on shortwave, you get your fair share of both atomospheric noise and interference. The background hiss of the atmospheric noise is usually not too bad, I'll eventually tune it out and pick out the voice although I'm not as good as some.

              Throw the buzzing of a cheap switchmode PSU or a crappy plasma TV in there, and I'm stuffed. Two people talking at once, no hope whatsoever.

              I do better if I'm listening to the voice through a binaural headset or headphones, a single-sided headset or a handset (e.g. telephone) I have more trouble with as I've got an inbalance of noise/signal on each side. Hence, I prefer to use the phone that way, than to juggle a handset.

              One characteristic I've noted though is a phenominon called Auditory Processing Delay … that is, your brain suffers a bit of latency getting started processing the audio coming in. Me and morse code are pretty much a no go, although I try, and pick up the odd character, I'll miss most of a word before I can start to identify it. Tuning in on the VK2WI training beacon at 3699kHz is a waste of time for anything other than a sanity check to know my receiver/antenna works.

              Still, I'm geeky enough to have my phone sound out my callsign when a text message or voice call comes in.

      2. Bsquared

        Re: Noise pollution

        Doesn't necessarily mean you're an Aspie. Have a look at CAPD - central auditory processing disorder ("dyslexia for the ears"). There are areas of overlap between CAPD, ADHD, autism and Aspergers of course.

        1. Caesarius

          Re: Noise pollution - CAPD

          From good old wikpedia:

          APD [Audio Processing Deficiency] is a difficult disorder to detect and diagnose. The subjective symptoms that lead to an evaluation for APD include an intermittent inability to process verbal information, leading the person to guess to fill in the processing gaps. There may also be disproportionate problems with decoding speech in noisy environments.

          I don't think I'm Aspergers, but I do remember one acutely embarrassing situation where I asked someone the name of some guitarist repeatedly, 6 times actually, and still had no idea what he said at all.

      3. Marcelo Rodrigues

        Re: Noise pollution

        "I far prefer to be in a quieter environment and with fewer people talking at once so that I can actually make out what is being said."

        I know what You say. There are times I want to walk around the pub - clubbing people into silence. :P

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Noise pollution

        Thank you both for mentioning that, I'm going to speak to my GP about this.

        I've always had a problem with conversations yet I've spent most of my career in customer services including a call centre. In that call centre I was constantly getting picked up for accuracy, I mentioned I had trouble hearing what the customer was saying but when they'd send me off to have my hearing tested I was well above average for my age group but the test consisted of noises played in headphones and clicking a button when I heard them.

        Of course my hearing is not the only reason I'm getting myself checked out but I never realised it could be an indicator.

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Noise pollution

        " I find it very difficult to make out different strands of conversation when in a group, especially with other noises around, like say in a pub. It's like I can hear the sounds but can't interpret them."

        - Exactly, me too. It takes several pints before I begin to be able to discern the content of individuals speech and join in conversation. Have always wondered how alcohol (just enough, mind) helps me to begin to filter the streams of speech correctly.

        (of course 'several pints' is far down the road towards 'too many' when any benefit rapidly gets undone by the effects of drunkenness...)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Noise pollution

      I found noise cancelling headphones are your friend here.

      Even on calls, I use the softphone with them.

    3. fearnothing

      Re: Noise pollution

      "It's not only very difficult to separate separate sound streams, it also makes it almost impossible to hold phone conversations."

      Wait, THAT'S why I have this problem? Damn, I thought it was just that I'd trained my brain to hear so many sounds at once from my love of classical music.

      Aspie people CAN learn to understand subtext - most of the time, and eve pick up on body language. But it takes actual practice and conscious thought, and it's not as reliable as most NTs' sense of others' feelings. The very best thing we can learn to do in terms of personal interaction is to deliberately compensate for this by asking questions and -ensuring- we're on the same page, not just misreading someone's intent.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Noise pollution

        Aspie people CAN learn to understand subtext - most of the time, and eve pick up on body language. But it takes actual practice and conscious thought, and it's not as reliable as most NTs' sense of others' feelings. The very best thing we can learn to do in terms of personal interaction is to deliberately compensate for this by asking questions and -ensuring- we're on the same page, not just misreading someone's intent.

        Guess you could draw an IT-based analogy like this… neurotypicals are wired in hardware to process feelings and body language. Aspergers divote that "hardware" to other functions and thus emulate the feature in "software" (conscious thought).

        You wouldn't expect to play Crysis at full-HD resolutions and >60 FPS with software rendering, no matter how good your CPU cores were. Rendering frames smoothly and efficiently requires dedicated purpose-built hardware.

        Consequently, yes, we can read some emotions, some will even get humour, but there will be some rough edges to our "reading" of other people.

        1. John G Imrie

          Re: Noise pollution

          Aspie people CAN learn to understand subtext - most of the time, and eve pick up on body language. But it takes actual practice and conscious thought, and it's not as reliable as most NTs' sense of others' feelings. The very best thing we can learn to do in terms of personal interaction is to deliberately compensate for this by asking questions and -ensuring- we're on the same page, not just misreading someone's intent.

          The problem I find is that when I'm concentrating on something, I'm no longer thinking about subtext or interpersonal relationships so I come over uncaring.

          I've spent a lot of my life looking for situations where I know the rules. Otherwise I flounder like a fish out of water.

          1. Richard 120

            Re: Noise pollution

            The place where I found it easy to work, and calming was a data centre.

            There's just the white noise of the fans and the single console where you can access everything you need to.

            People would try to contact me by phone, couldn't hear it over the white noise.

            The best way to get my attention was to stand by the side and wave hands in front of the screen.

            The down sides are that all the consoles are in cold aisles and no natural light resulting in SAD.

            Put the consoles in the warm aisles at least!

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Noise pollution

              I never understood the need to have "computer rooms" at 18C or below. As the AC units maintain a temperature, why not set them to 21C and make it comfortable for humans too?

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Noise pollution

            "The problem I find is that when I'm concentrating on something, I'm no longer thinking about subtext or interpersonal relationships so I come over uncaring."

            I find the article's tone unnecessarily defensive and humble. It's as if being an "Aspie" were a disease, or a way of falling short of being completely human. Maybe it's a modern trend to make everything a "syndrome" and look for treatments, but perhaps a better (if old-fashioned) approach is to remember that people differ. Aren't we supposed to "celebrate diversity"?

            Putting the sentence I quoted at the top of this reply into reverse, you get: "The problem I find is that when a 'normal person' (i.e. "extrovert") is thinking about subtext or interpersonal relationships they are not concentrating, so they come across as an airhead". In a sense, everyone else is parasitic on the people who concentrate - so maybe we should cut them a bit of slack and not worry too much if they come across as uncaring. (Especially since they probably do care more than many of those who make it their business to appear caring).

            Each of has only so much grey matter, and we have to allocate it to what we think is most important. Without some people who use their brain power to solve real-world problems, we would all be living in caves (if indeed we were living at all). Yet those who prioritize subtext or interpersonal relationships are, mostly, those who end up rich and powerful.

            1. Pat McGroin

              Re: Noise pollution

              Totally agree with that.

              Yes, some of us specialise in focussed attention, ideal for technical and mechanical pursuits... others in a broad awareness, good for fuzzier processing as in social situations. As you say, this is a necessary spectrum of human traits - we need people at both ends for society to function.

              My own experience is that I can be closer to either end of that spectrum on a given day. At times, when I've worked at the business/customer facing side of IT, my people skills were to the fore - easily and intuitively. On other occasions I've been doing pointer arithmetic 12 hours a day, and would have seemed like the most abject sociopath to the untrained. Can't be both on any given day: I'm able to concentrate when needed ... if that freaks out all the one-trick-ponies/empathic-airheads that the 21st century so favours - tough s**t! Concentration MEANS blocking out irrelevant information, and the more complex the task, the more blocking required.

              ... now, why do we currently medicalise the 'aspie' end of said spectrum? I don't believe it was always so. 19th century wives of professionals were diagnosed as hysteric for displaying 'symptoms' that would now be written down as a healthy response to sexual and social frustration. Every age sets its parameters of mental hygiene based on distance from its ideals. Then, the 'overly feminine' traits of emotionality were outrageous. Now, the 'excessively' male behaviours of the asperger's personality are considered disordered.

              [I don't have time to give detailed medical science to back up that last paragraph - I'm on a half hour self-imposed furlough from coding - but one of Sapolsky's excellent Stanford Human Behavioural Biology lectures that can be got on youtube goes into how autistic traits are just exaggerated male ones. Zeitgeists, The Clinic, hegemony, blah, blah, blah... check out European Philosophy if you can be bovvered: Hegel, Foucault, Gramsci might be a good start.]

              We live in a world where, compared to 80 or 100 years ago, form is favoured over substance, appearance over intellect, concensus over genius. The shift in emphasis has its roots in the rightful horror at what the patriarchies and ideologies of the past created - Nazis, Stalin etc - and should have been a good one: I'm all in favour of humanising and democratising things, and recognising that people ain't machines etc. ... but it's gone too far when an ability to focus coupled with a dislike of cocktail parties makes you disordered!

              We need focussed thinkers more than we need a few billion more kardashian watching bubbleheaded gonks who only ever say safe and appropriate things... blubbering little slave sheeple norks that they are!

              Say it loud, I'm Aspie/Sociopathic/otherwise IT and I'm proud!!!


        2. squigbobble

          Re: Noise pollution

          That's a good IT analogy :D

          I'd like to add that the software processing is still a learning machine and only works in situations that it's been trained in. It's easy to wind up in a fish-out-of-water social situation if it's one that doesn't happen frequently, just like trying to do anything you haven't practised. The worst bit is that, as your mental battery runs down (through stress and fatigue) the software processing gets slower and less effective and, outwardly, you start getting odder and more unsociable...

          I've been in situations (like after a 45 hour week) where the bit of my brain that's supposed to think of things to say just goes "Fuck it!" and holds up a test card, leaving me gawping blankly. Fortunately I've come to expect myself to cock up the most mundane social situations so it isn't too much of a bother.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Take the test and answer honestly

        1. Anomalous Cowturd

          Re: Take the test and answer honestly

          Holy fuck! How many? I am shocked...

          I need to have another chat with the man in a white coat.

          Where's my pills?

    4. John G Imrie

      Re: Noise pollution

      I have the same problem, get me into a noisy pub and I may as well be listing to a football crowd chanting in an unknown foreign language

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Noise pollution

      So it's not just me then !

      As another commented - I can hear the noises (mostly), but don't seem to be able to make any sense of them.

      Keep meaning to see the doctor about going for a proper AS test - but never get round to the break in routine. Hmm, that sounds familiar.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Noise pollution

        You can do a test online and don't be fooled by the Baron-Cohen part - he's legit (and a relative of Sacha).

        you can find it here amongst other places :

    6. Dr Paul Taylor

      Re: Noise pollution

      Totally agree on the noise pollution thing. (Classical) music is fine, so I listen to Radio 3, but that all too frequently degenerates into airheaded chat from conceited arts graduates - the "opera" from the Met, for example, seems to be ?50% chat. "Just play the f**king music!", I frequently yell at it.

      Altogether an excellent piece, as I see many other Reggistas also consider. However, the only events that I could find on the website were lectures, not self-help groups.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Noise pollution

        Dyslexia can also cause the "Cocktail Party effect" (just found the name via google :) ).

        I have learnt that the symptoms we call dyslexia seem to be an inability, not to read words, but to filter out information when given multiple streams.

        It's not just the noise in pubs though. I don't go because of those bingo boxes with flashing lights. They are so distracting, I have to leave!

      2. Michael Dunn

        Re: Noise pollution @Dr Paul Taylor

        "Just play the f**king music!", I frequently yell at it.

        Just like me - while still in UK I eventually gave up listenig to R3, and considered Classic FM 'cruel and unusual punishment.'

    7. John Sanders

      Re: Noise pollution

      I'm scared now, I have the same very problem people is describing here.

      In my case I can be on a meeting with several people and I can listen and pay more attention to the birds outside than the people in front of me.

      In the pub it is as if people is talking on a different language.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Noise pollution

        "In my case I can be on a meeting with several people and I can listen and pay more attention to the birds outside than the people in front of me".

        Of course, it might also be that the birds are making more sense.

    8. Lars Silver badge

      Re: Noise pollution

      So many comments now, but I wonder, are we not all distracted by "noise". For a while I tried to listen to music I liked while trying to perform as a programmer, It did not work for me, either I listen to music or I concentrate on the programming. A bit like trying to fuck while reading a book (not that I have tried). Then again with some beer with plenty of music and voices I usually feel OK and very anonymous secure and safe, back in the "vomb", completely undisturbed, or then actively taking part. Do we not all hate people who never shut up and listen, if not, then how could we have enjoyed H.Bucket.

      And my point, lost, in a world, where we are, on the other hand, awfully similar but luckily also different.

  4. qwertyuiop
    Thumb Up

    Thank you!

    Thanks for a fascinating and enlightening piece. Thank you too for sharing; it takes great courage to identify yourself in the workplace as being not NT and I applaud your bravery in sharing this with employers. So many employers lack a proper understanding and usually run a mile form anybody who is in any way "different", so kudos too to your present employer for not being typical.

    My own particular "thing" is that I suffer periodically from depression. Unfortunately I have yet to discover the secret of how this can be a positive. What I _have_ discovered is that employers regard it as a definite no-no which leaves me with a huge dilemma. It is part of my nature to be open and up-front with people in aspects of my life, but sadly being open and up-front about my depressive episodes is not a plus when applying for jobs. I am therefore forced to conceal it which does not sit happily with me. So, again, I hugely respect your openness and honesty with your employer.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Thank you!

      Openness and honesty are good in principle, but only to the extent that others reciprocate by also being open and honest. It's a classic case of the Prisoner's Dilemma.

      In practice, in the average organization, I think the best advice is "The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that you've got it made". You have to act sincere, without actually giving anything away. Otherwise, you lose big. If you don't act sincere, no one will trust you and you will become unpopular. But if you really are sincere... actually, much the same. This is one of the most important things young people should be told... but no one tells them, because that would require genuine sincerity, which no one is willing to risk.

      Maybe, as so often, we should leave the last word to Oscar Wilde: "A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal".

    2. vatpiledon

      Re: Thank you!

      As a parent of two boys on the Autistic Spectrum and a business using aspies in cyber security (secur IT ism) I congratulate the writer on finding their own feet and coping mechanisms. We have a lot that we can learn about changes in workplace that will benefit all.....Really we are ALL autistic, ADHD, etc. and NT at the same time....the brain chemistry in for all of us dictates how much. I know so many Aspies that are captains of industry, and thinking back to Uni days, most of the lecturers were definitely on the spectrum...things are changing and attitudes that this is natural human diversity that ought to be dealt with appropriately and in cases ought to be celebrated like we value Mozart and Einstein in their abilities, not to mention Professor Temple Grandin, etc. that are great ambassadors. my friends company Passwerk in Belgium recently won a European Ethical business award....who says you can't have a socio ethical company, with very happy workers and still make money.

    3. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

      Re: Thank you!

      "My own particular "thing" is that I suffer periodically from depression. Unfortunately I have yet to discover the secret of how this can be a positive."

      You might be a natural Thaumaturge.

      Geo-phenomena are all the result of sound waves. Dry weather in certain regions leads to convergence of seismic waves giving Mag 7s or greater. Flooding OTOH leads to volcanic upheaval. As you may know this is already the subject of acoustic research after the work of Bernard Chouet.

      Some stuff about it on here:

      Carefully analysing your diet for such days will help. It won't stop joint pain or leg cramps but may help mitigate such things. I'm guessing you suffer leg cramps on days when you are depressed or most confused. (Or maybe it is just related to days when I do ;~) An IT diet of Pot Noodle and caffeine is the worst thing for you.


      It's all identical to a tenet of the film "Conspiracy Theory".

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nice read

    Thanks for an interesting read. I identify strongly with much of it, and yet not with other parts. I guess I'm somewhere on the spectrum off at a tangent..... as usual I never seem to fit in with anything 100% :)

    1. Richard Jones 1

      Re: Nice read

      I have to say that while it is called a spectrum, in many ways it is not as continuous as a spectrum. For many it is more akin to a menu board where you will have this but not that, manage with this but not with that and so on. Usually there are key aspects, e.g. noise intolerance, and maybe over sensitive hearing, etc that are common to many.

      Until and unless people find their key resource or strength and how to use it, depression can be a controlling fact in their life. If they find their key resource and how to exploit it any disturbance can bring on very acute depression. It is vital to show that setbacks are not terminal and can be worked round, . For many life is a series of all or nothing hurdles, so appraisals can be a really tough time for both parties!.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nice read

      " I identify strongly with much of it, and yet not with other parts."

      I'd be surprised if that weren't true for at least 95% of Register readers.

      1. Khaptain Silver badge

        Re: Nice read

        I'd go as far as saying it probably represents 95% of the population.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Nice read

          It is both a truth and an appropriate example that we all at times have pains in our legs, so can empathise with those who have constant pain in their legs. We all at times need assistance physically, so can empathise with those who need constant physical assistance.

          We would be foolish to think we were the peak of mental ability. So we all at times or all the time, have a measure of success or failure in our mental faculties.

          Basically, we are more alike then we realise. Though we should all respect and help each other with our differences.

      2. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Nice read

        Baron-Cohen ( no the other one, I think they're brothers) would argue that we are all to some extent on the spectrum.

  6. James 47


    "We don't multitask too well, but we do one task at a time and do it well"

    I recently moved from a very large corporation culture to a small (< 30 people, 5 of which are infrastructure/software engineers) startup and the ability to drop everything a work on something else, while undesirable, is a total must. We try to be Agile but there are times when Just Get It F*****g Done overrule and sprint plan. I couldn't see an 'Aspie' ever working in these conditions, so are they resigned to large process driven corporation culture where politics also probably come more into play?

    1. JTUK

      Re: Multitasking

      Having worked in large and small organisations, I can tell you that support of your manager means more than organisation size or any other factor. If you recap this article, Office Politics are the greatest risk, there are far less politics in smaller companies. In a 30 man company, there may only be 2-4 managers.

      If you have a good aspie who is applying his intrinsic interest to your workplace, supported by a good manger then he can really shine in a small company. Having an expert who can apply his skills successfully can make or break a small business.


      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Multitasking

        I can vouch for this, having worked in a 3-man company (Eze Corporation), a ~40 man company (Jacques Electronics) and now a 16-man company (VRT Systems), there's definitely less politics in smaller organisations.

        I've been approached by the likes of Google … on a few occasions. My initial reason for turning them down was that the position was inappropriate for my situation (the position was in the US, called for 3 years experience, and I was still studying). I've been approached with offers in Sydney … initially I balked at the idea of moving from Brisbane — everyone I know is in Brisbane.

        Now, having worked for a few small organisations, I think there's definite value in being in a small place where there's a minimum of politics or beuraucracy, everyone pretty much knows everyone else, and all can make accomodations for each person's individual traits, whether they be ASD-related or not.

        I think I'd get lost in a >100 person organisation. Better the devil I know than the one I don't!

        1. Richard Jones 1

          Re: Multitasking

          I totally agree with all of the responses on this headline. One other point that links back to the original article, having a new goal with specific demands and time scales is not an impossible situation.

          For someone who knows and understands the system/situation it can be ideal. They can fling both their existing knowledge and how to dig out the rest they need into a tight time scale project . I was never diagnosed, though now I see the issue in my children. It does not matter to me now, I have been retired for a number of years. I look back to many 18 and twenty hour days meeting recovery objectives. I also remember the times when the head scratchers club were pouring over data dumps. Using alternative logic mixed with understanding of the background I could highlight the area where things went off the rails. Often I knew the cause before I was briefed on the details of the problem.

          So, if you want a strong team, consider the talents you might need when you are against the wall, not the faces that fit the next corporate photo shoot.

    2. John Sanders

      Re: Multitasking

      In my case I can deal with as many issues at once as I want, but I concentrate so much on the one at hand that if you interrupt me I will get quite angry and will not manage to do anything for a while. This means that if I have to do a-b-c I will do it at my pace and in the order that I better see fit, if in the middle of the work I'm told to stop working on a and do c instead for no real good reason I get completely derailed.

      Another problem is that I need to understand why things are happening, and why something failed to the last detail. This becomes obsessive.

  7. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

    I think quite a lot of the recommendations in this article would produce good mental health in all of us. Any condition is exacerbated by stress, and much of it seems to be about stress reduction. Hopefully in a 100 years time people will look back in horror at 21st century mental hygiene.

  8. Petrossa

    I found that for an Aspie being your own boss works best. Sure it was hard for me to interact with potential clients, but with some help from SSRI's and Xanax that was surmountable. After having messed up regular jobs in spectacular ways I started my company and sold it 10 years later with enough to live a quiet modest retired life.

    The single-task focus was a giant help in getting complex orders done in short time and with very good results by working in my own little shell of my office, sometimes 3 days and nights in a row solving that nagging little bug.

    All in all i find Asperger a bonus rather then a handicap.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Strikingly familiar....think I should probably see someone. As I am about to ditch my career job and start working for myself (decided I can't work in a politics heavy multinational environment, had a good 'whoops' moment the other day)...I am concerned about managing my time when left to my own devices.

  10. The Axe

    As someone who has certain Aspergers syndromes in my personality so could be classified as mentally disabled as I appear somewhere along the spectrum of the disorder I find the whole article puerile.

    So what if someone has Aspergers. Other people have a squint. Yet others might have a problematic home life. Others might have a physical disability. Some people look and act totally normal but are psychopaths. Everyone is different. Work with that fact and work with that the person's abilities. So some people need close supervision, others can be told to get on with it. Some might need detailed lists, others can work with vague concepts and are in tune with their manager's thoughts. Everyone is different.

    As for getting government help. No No No No No No No No and NO!

    It's not a disease. It's who you are. You don't need to adjust, others do.

    1. Novex

      "You don't need to adjust, others do."

      Hmm, and pigs might fly. The day when all the NTs are able to understand the non-NTs is a very long way off.

      While I haven't been diagnosed with Aspergers, or even 'tested' for it, I certainly can identify with some of the symptoms that I've seen described here and elsewhere. I feel I sit somewhere between NT and Aspergers on the Autism scale, meaning I'm in neither camp. Certainly I get frustrated with NTs, but I also get frustrated with anyone who is a 'bit too focussed'. I don't get on with anyone easily at all. I'm not sure how to deal with that.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        "Hmm, and pigs might fly. The day when all the NTs are able to understand the non-NTs is a very long way off".

        Funny, isn't it, how all the empathetic NTs are so completely unable to empathize with the non-empathetic Aspies?

        If they're so bloody empathetic, how come they make so little effort to understand that someone else might not think and feel exactly the way they do?

      2. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

        "The day when all the NTs are able to understand the non-NTs is a very long way off."

        Not that far. Consider what Hitler was doing to people who didn't fit and compare it to Britain's need to break his codes and who they used to do it and what happened next in IT. Frank Whittle was castigated for having a mental breakdown after years spent trying to deal with British Management. If he were at his peak in this day and age we would have had a TSR2 and now be successfully trying out our own superduper sonic craft.

        People with gifts DO get recognised, just not in companies like Amazon where managers are chosen for their ability to defend themselves against the fodder.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      meanwhile back in the real world...

      hi, my line manager was the best I have ever had, after being off for quite a long while to recuperate, I asked off the record if I ever stood a chance of a pay rise or promotion. The answer was an absolute no.

      I saved my progmme £500k in six months and halved the time taken to do period reporting and reviews.

      I would appreciate your view re how I could have got the world to change to me...

      1. The Axe

        Re: meanwhile back in the real world...

        You don't force the world to change to you in the first place.

        The best managers are those who know their staff's strengths and weaknesses and work with that. The worst ones are those that try and squeeze every member of their staff through the same square hole even though some are round. If the manager can't cope with you, it's not your fault - its theirs. If it doesn't work for you, move to a job where it does work. You aren't entitled to the perfect job, you have to look for it and work for it.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: meanwhile back in the real world...

          As someone who has certain Aspergers syndromes in my personality so could be classified as mentally disabled

          I seriously resent your use of the term "mentally disabled" in relation to Aspergers.

          1. The Axe

            Re: meanwhile back in the real world...

            As someone who used it to describe himself in a sarcastic tone I don't give two hoots about upsetting you. If you want to go around being offended at everything that's your problem.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: meanwhile back in the real world...

              I neither wish to nor do I go around being offended at everything. It appears "mentally disabled" might well describe you very well indeed, but it's damn all to do with aspergers.

              1. The Axe

                Re: meanwhile back in the real world...

                Well rant off to the writer of the article. He thinks he has a disability. He's even gone and got government help for it and that must mean its a proper disability.

          2. Charles Manning

            Re: meanwhile back in the real world...

            "I seriously resent your use of the term "mentally disabled" in relation to Aspergers."

            Why the resentment?

            If it is limiting your ability to get on with a "normal" office environment and "normal" personal interactions then it is surely a disability.

            I have some of these traits too, as well as mild dyslexia.

            I used to be a rude arsehole at school and intolerant in the workplace to the extent that there were people who refused to work with me. I understood some areas of physics better than the science teacher and would loudly yell "Bullshit" from the back of the class when he made even a slight mistake (eg. saying "x weighs 5kg" instead of "x has a mass of 5kg"). [And that was in a society which still allowed boys to be caned for misbehaviour.]

            I figured out though that pulling the victim card was pointless. To compensate for the dyslexia, I would proof read everything I wrote three times. I would have to actively moderate my behaviour and learn how office politics works.

            Indeed, office politics, the law, and even people, can be made understandable if you consider then a bit like a CPU with a really weird instruction set. Do X and Y happens. It does not have to be intuitive, you just have to learn the way it works. Luckily us techy types can learn this easily if we set our minds to it.

            If your "career plan" is to piss and moan and expect the world to conform to you, then you will just get nowhere.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: meanwhile back in the real world...

              Thumbs up Charles, at last a comment from someone with some sense.

              After reading some of the other comments on this thread it appears that some people actually want to actively believe that they have AS in order that they can excuse poor social skills..

              Offices are full of people that have difficulty within that particular environment, that doesn't mean they all have AS, even though many of them would be realtively high up on the scale. Get over it, it's part of institutional working life and living in contemporary society.

              Some people may exhibit the traits that can be found in Aspergers Syndrome but that does not mean you actually SUFFER from it..

              As usual the whiny, moany crowd will be detracting the attention that the real sufferers require. All it would require for some on the thread to be cured is to actually "grow up".

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: meanwhile back in the real world...

              Why the resentment?

              Because whilst the brain of someone with an ASD has differences, it is not non-functioning - it is not "disabled". Einstein is widely believed to have had an ASD - would a description of him as being "mentally disabled" not appear a bit wide of the mark?

              If it is limiting your ability to get on with a "normal" office environment and "normal" personal interactions then it is surely a disability.

              I wouldn't agree that a difficulty is a disability, particularly in relation to the Asperger's end of ASD. The range of difficulties suffered by those with an ASD is huge, utterly huge. Asperger's is quite clearly at one end of the scale. It can be very difficult to detect and diagnose. At the other end of the scale it can be extremely obvious. At that end things may not be difficult, they may be impossible and disability is probably a reasonable term, but I definitely disagree with its use at the Asperger's end of the scale.

              If your "career plan" is to piss and moan and expect the world to conform to you, then you will just get nowhere.

              Totally irrelevant to me at least as I don't have an ASD and I also agree with with you there entirely. I know some people who do have one though, very well, one in particular. It's too early to say if that will be his "career plan", but I spend a considerable amount of time trying to help him adapt to the world, not the other way around. The world doesn't have to cope with him, it can just push him away. He knows that, and has strategies to deal with that. It's him adjusting, not the world - but it'd be nice if it understood.

            3. John Sanders

              Re: meanwhile back in the real world...

              """I would have to actively moderate my behaviour and learn how office politics works."""

              How how do you learn that?

            4. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: meanwhile back in the real world...

              Having read your post, I think it's clear you're not an Aspie.

              My gut reaction is "Sociopath". That's a little bit like the opposite of an Aspie.

        2. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

          Re: meanwhile back in the real world...

          No his mistake was asking off the record.

          You should "officially":

          Ask the person who is responsible for paying you, then after a refusal, ask the same person for a reference. (It is difficult to be straight when you have a tendency to avoid eye-contact.) Better still, find another situation and force yourself to TELL them that you want a reference. You might first ask unofficially how you stood for getting a reference. But I wouldn't bother, if I knew I was that good.

    3. Dr Paul Taylor

      Acceptable discrimination

      So what if someone has Aspergers. Other people have a squint.

      Other people are female, gay, of other ethnicities, physically disabled, etc.

      However, in all of these things it is no longer acceptable to discriminate, and more or less everybody now knows that. The problem is that autistic spectrum behaviour --- which many of us here do not regard as a "disability" --- remains a perfectly acceptable reason for discrimination.

  11. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    And please note the name. It's a *spectrum* of behaviours

    As in a range of less to more severe.

    No. I don't think managers will behave better toward people with a diagnosis.

    I think I might have met someone with some form of this condition on a course.

    I said hello and she thought I was the nosiest person she'd ever met.

    In a class full of graduates she was the only person without a degree. She led the course results from day 1.

    Now what I'd really like to see is a few words from a manager whose a diagnosed psychopath but I bet you'll have trouble finding one of those (that will admit it).

    1. SeanEllis

      Re: And please note the name. It's a *spectrum* of behaviours

      "I don't think managers will behave better toward people with a diagnosis"

      Part of being a good manager is knowing how to communicate with those who report to you, and getting them to perform well in their job. Knowing about people's strengths and weaknesses can be used for evil (as in Mr Burns's first boss in this piece), but it can also be used for good. Knowing about AS is part of that.

      Companies spend serious money trying to discover personality traits using analyses like Myers-Briggs, so that they can balance teams and ensure than the ELNTs aren't outnumbered by the DBDGs (or whatever).

      While I don't necessarily think there's much evidence behind Myers-Briggs, I do think that knowing the personalities of your team is important, and in the right hands can help ensure that a team - and all the people within it - tick along nicely.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And please note the name. It's a *spectrum* of behaviours

      "Now what I'd really like to see is a few words from a manager whose a diagnosed psychopath but I bet you'll have trouble finding one of those (that will admit it)".

      Yes, it does sound tricky. Here's a tip: pick the sincerest, most charming person you can find.

      1. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

        Re: And please note the name. It's a *spectrum* of behaviours

        "Here's a tip: pick the sincerest, most charming person you can find."

        Funny. You just described Tony Blair but ruled out Margarat Thatcher.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And please note the name. It's a *spectrum* of behaviours

      Diagnosed functional Psychopath here (not a manager tho), and can tell you that you are spot on with the sincerity comment. I actually found my best fit for a career was as an infantry soldier (not UK, and involved in a lot of little wars). Always regretted getting out of the military contracting game as it was such fun.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nice article.

    You are very lucky to have a good boss / manager. So many of them are crap. They all seem to go to the school of move the desks around every six months school of bad management

  13. Yag

    Sometime I wonder if I've got asperger...

    ... but most of the time I just think I'm just an asocial jerk.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Sometime I wonder if I've got asperger...

      AngerCoffee will keep you alive. Fury will kill you.

      That and passive-aggressive behaviour.


  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Excellent article

    Interesting and well written

  15. McNoir

    I've signed up, just so I can respond to this and say Bravo

    This is probably the most eloquent description of being an 'Aspie' in the workplace that I've ever read.

    As an Aspie and Depresso guy, articles like this make me feel like there's hope.

    And Paul S. I've always thought I was the only person who had sound sensitivity issues. Not one medical person has mentioned that to me before. Thank you for mentioning that. I feel slightly less weird now.

    1. Snark

      Light, sound and touch sensitivity (and in a slightly different vein personal space issues) are common attributes in various degrees in Aspies I know. You definitely are not alone. Getting a hug from my partner's daughter is one of the major "wow" moment's in my life as I know how difficult it must have been for her.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        That sound stuff was news to me. Not aspbergers as far as I know (quite outgoing), but I really struggle with picking out conversations when there is any sort of background noise. Been for hearing tests and the like, and there's nothing wrong with it - I can pick out the beeps of someone much younger.

        Hm. Food for thought.

        1. squigbobble

          Maybe dyslexia?

          That also causes difficulty in discerning speech, especially when there's background noise. It's also entirely possible to be an extroverted Aspie, it's just unlikely.

          1. Fizzl

            Re: Maybe dyslexia?

            Yep I can relate to that having dyslexia.

            It's the other end of the same scale (same gene opposite extremes in brain structure) there are many commonalities.

            In the dyslexia case you will find you can't filter out the irrelevant so lots of people talking gets confusing.

            The difference is dyslexia will make you much better at multitasking, seeing connections, performing analyse and the big picture stuff. Details are irrelevant once you have established it works. People seem to broadcast there emotions on loud speaker so it becomes difficult sometimes.

            Annoyingly thing is it has very little to do with spelling.

            Same advise though. If your work doesn't get it then sod them someone else can have your talent. A boss who sees what you can do and is happy to help you with the rest is awesome.

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. squigbobble


      I've never heard that term before. I know what it means but I can't help thinking it sounds like a decaffeinated coffee :D

      Anyway, declaring your label to all and sundry is very risky (N.B. if HR thinks something's a good idea, it's probably not) as people will tend to perceive you as that label and consider only your limitations. If you're manager's got a heavy workload or is otherwise crap, their first thought will be "Shit. More work." and they may decide that you're just an impediment to them hitting their KPIs. It very much hinges on the manager's personality; some try to work to each team member's strengths, others just focus on eliminating any perceived weak links in the team so they can get on with their coffee and spreadsheets. That goes for any mental health issues.

      Unfortunately, if you're on the autism spectrum, gauging how your manager will react is black magic.

    3. fruitoftheloon



      indeed, in the days of yore (crt tv, four channels), I could tell from outside the house what channel the goggle box was on by the v high pitched sound it made, no-one believed me.

  16. fruitoftheloon
    Thumb Up

    it's not just me then eh?

    Many thanks for an excellent article. One has found 'proper' jobs challenging for a while.

    After too much work and life stuff piled up a little too high, I met Network Rails' inHuman Resource consultants' after seeing a professional who knew about mental health.

    After mentioning to the BUPA Doctor about the autism/Aspergers thing, the reply was "what is autism", I knew then my future at network rail was camel trucked.

    So I left and started working for me.

    Best decision I ever made!

    Skint (ish), no boss, no pointless reports that no-one reads, no wasted time in irrelevant meetings.

    Go for it if you are being sidelined, ignored, taken advantage of...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: it's not just me then eh?

      "After mentioning to the BUPA Doctor about the autism/Aspergers thing, the reply was "what is autism"..."

      Doctor of what? Theology?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: it's not just me then eh?

        Doctor of being pleasant but not terribly bright...

  17. Tim Worstal

    It's management that needs to read this

    For as the piece doesn't emphasise quite enough those with Aspergers' can indeed turn out to be the most useful (and thus profitable) employees even is sometimes somewhat socially maladroit.

    It's the old round peg and round hole thing again: and if management isn't actually taking into consideration the personality of the people working for them and then matching that personality to management style then WTF are they doing?

    They're supposed to be managers after all.

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: It's management that needs to read this


      Considerable aspects of the article cover anyone in the workplace. We all have our own range of personalities and abilities that we bring to the shopfloor.

      Multi-tasking is currently "in", probably on the back of "women can multi-task". But most workplace tasks are more efficiently performed by giving them focus. (Irrespective of gender). And switching to and from incomplete tasks wastes time tuning-in for everyone, not just ASD personalities.

      Undercurrents and office manipulation ( read "politics") harm everyone who is not playing in the game and adds nothing to the success of the organisation.

      Or to put it another way. An ASD friendly employer is a task-focussed employer. And in many jobs a staff member with ASD can be used to considerable advantage. It depends on the role.

      What the workplace doesn't need is the sort of management that sees staff as interchangeable units.

  18. Novex

    I once had a contract where my immediate boss (a woman, I might add, and a very nice one too on all accounts) realised that the best way to get the best out of me was to work with me and support me, not pressure and stress me. That was one of the better contracts I did, simply because I wanted to go in and do the job, rather than feeling that I had no choice but to go in.

    So, for employers, hear this: it pays to be positive and supportive to your staff, particularly your Aspies, because we'll put in the extra mile to get the job done!

  19. This post has been deleted by its author

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Where are you based?

    I ask because my experience has been very different from yours. I've known for a very long time that I was "different" from my co-workers. I have first hand experience of most of the situations and stresses that you so eloquently describe.

    Without going onto detail, I reached something of a crisis point a few years ago and went to see my GP for help. We discussed the problems I was having and the prevalence of ASD symptoms. This in itself was hugely stressful as us Aspies don't like talking about ourselves much! Anyway, the Doctor promised to see what help was available. A few weeks later I received a call from the Surgery basically saying there was no one I could be referred to, and they were also unaware of any support groups in the area . The best suggestion they had was "try reading some self-help books".

    From the help you were readily offered I'm guessing you don't live in North Wales?

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      Re: Where are you based?

      "From the help you were readily offered I'm guessing you don't live in North Wales?"

      So much for the "national" in National Health Service.

      On the bright side at least they didn't burn you as a witch.

      Yes, there are days I find only an appallingly tasteless sense of humor get me through.

    2. Stuart 39

      Re: Where are you based?

      Hi, I know for sure there is help in North Wales.

      It all depends on how proactive your management is. It can be an uphill struggle for sure. If you get an email to me, I am more than happy to share what I have.

    3. Paul Bartlett

      Re: Where are you based?

      Exactly the same (or worse) in Milton Keynes.

  21. Danny 5


    I thought pretty much all techies had some form of autism, i know i do. Having such a condition can be trialing at times, but in my professional life it's been more of a benefit then anything. My uncanny ability to remember all things technical is a prized asset for me.

    Sure, being seen as anti social is a bit of a hassle sometimes. (just because i like to be alone, doesn't mean i'm anti social, or depressed), but i've learned to deal with that and my friends mostly accept me for who i am.

    I can't change who i am, so i decided to stop trying to change myself. If i do try, i'll end up not being myself, which would ultimately result in me being unhappy.

  22. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    yupp been there

    That is inside a broken machine when the customer has rung up and I'm the only guy the office gal can find because our alledged management has done a vanishing act.

    The disruption to my carefully planned work schedule ended up having me make a sign saying "if the building aint on fire, your message is not important" and sticking it on my back.

    But I see the symptoms you describe quite well when looking in the mirror....

  23. A Non e-mouse Silver badge


    Introvertedness is often associated with people on the Austism/Asperger's spectrum. (Yes it's a spectrum, not a plain black/white diagnosis)

    This list I find can be quite useful for NT's about how introverts/Aspis/Autistics interact differently.

  24. itzman

    there are two sorts of management..

    one which selects people just like the manager, so the rules work for everyone and everyone feels safe.

    The other where the manager looks at what he has, and sets different rules and standards to accommodate the wide variety of skills and personalities he has at his disposal, and optimises them.

    In smaller companies you are forced to employ the rejects from the first sort of manager. And become the second.

    Employing the weirder end of the anti-social was perhaps the most rewarding part of being an employer.

    Go geeks, go, the geek shall inherit the earth!

  25. --

    Great article

    I have been diagnosed with Asperger's almost a year ago and i pretty much always ignored this, I simply did not want to hear it. This is the first article that actually interested me on this subject and it is great to see that there is someone on this world who, although he has Asperger's, is making the best of his life and is using his advantages as best as possible.

    Since I have had the diagnosis my life has been pretty much going downwards for me, I saw no hope, partially because of me having Aspergers and i am in a group now to help deal with my autism, use it to the best effect and help me get ready for "the real world". This article inspired me and gave me a bit of hope again.

    Thank you

    1. Paul Bartlett

      Re: Great article

      See my earlier post. Many see aspergers as a positive. A great number of exceptionally talented people have aspergers. I have met some. I am not a doctor, but my advice would be to learn about it and find & focus on the positives.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Never gone as far as my GP but every time I read an Aspergers article I can tick off most of the behaviours quite easily.

    So I supose the questions for those who have done it are:

    - did it help to know for sure one way or the other (I'm assuming you'd had your own suspicions before you went) ?

    - did it help going forward ?

  27. Stuart 39

    Author here (again)

    Not sure if my comments are getting through or not, so in short:

    Thank you for your kind comments. I am glad it seems to have hit the spot.

    To answer some of the questions..

    I was based in North Wales, so there is definitely help. It depends how proactive your workplace is in helping you I guess. The access to work is a free service also (or at least as far as I am aware it was).

    If anyone want's more specifics, I am happy to help. Not sure quite how to contact me, but feel free.

    I also believe that we do have a lot to bring, we just work different :) And sometimes people can take advantage of that.

    Also, if you find a good GP, they are worth their weight in gold.

    Please feel free to ask more questions.

    1. Snark

      Re: Author here (again)

      Thank you for giving real life experiences, its really good to hear the goods and bads from "inside", including what those donuts in HR made you do. I've been reading the comments here with interest on everyones viewpoints and also (unsurprisingly) how many people in IT share common traits with Aspies.

      I think thats a positive we can take. Some of the traits we have (liking problem solving, liking logical solutions, liking details, being slightly antisocial) are part of what got us into IT in the first place and I think they are part of the attraction for Aspies too, so we have common ground. It takes a little bit of understanding though to get over the faux pas caused by the differences in those traits though. I guess I am saying how hard-wired some of those traits are in Aspies. As a typical IT geek I am shy and like to work through problems without distractions, I get stressed when multitasking but hey I get by, its not how I want it. I hate interminate deadlines and conflicting priorities. My partner's daughter though, its not something you can dislike and "get over". I know I get stressed when idiot PMs conflict, she though doesn't relate those two things together. The feelings of indefinite deadlines (oh later, as soon as you can) induce real stress in her to the point of not being able to function, but that link to "that PM is an idiot" isn't there and so they just don't correlate.

      It's simple things that make a world of difference when you understand that the person isn't just being obsintate they need things addressed differently. From our side, say definites, I need this by Xpm, we will do so and so in half an hour. Little things that don't take much effort. From her side, as she has been diagnosed it's the making conscious efforts to correlate what is being a difficulty as it doesn't come naturally (and as others have said, thats hard when you are concentrating) and so by understanding her brain works differently being able to try and jump that gap to "why is that other person being so obtuse its obvious why this is wrong", when well, its not. Also understanding that yes, I could quite happily go on talking about this subject for the next 8hrs but consciously deciding that maybe other people can't and putting a halt to it. I know it can be quite tiring for her but by meeting in the middle then you can bring out some fantastic talent. By her understanding quite why somethings are difficult then a lot of the frustrations go away.

      The classic one is "I can't do that". Again, a simple black/white statement which can come across as obstinate, but by broaching the subjects differently, breaking it down to where the problem is (which might be as simple as I need XXX to do that or I have something else to do or any other number of other things) . Routine, things being consistent (I'd never ask an Aspie to hotdesk for instance) its all quite little, simple things which make a whole world of difference. Anyway thanks again for the article and getting people talking about it.

  28. Stuart 39

    Hi, Author here

    Hi Everyone,

    Thank you for the kind comments. I am more than happy to help anyone with any questions they may have. I agree that being Aspie is not a handicap btw, we just do our stuff a bit different and bring different skills to the table. However office politics is something I think most of us suck at :)

    As for the spectrum, it is just that. Some of us have very mid cases, some of us have really bad cases.

    For me, being told about it answered so many of the "why I do stuff the way I do it" Including being a bit of a library nerd in school.

  29. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Pperhaps the start of a series...

    I'd suggest how to deal with /manage managers/staff who are bipolar/ADHD/depressive/psychotic

    Yes, I have had to deal with several of these types over the years.

    The days I yearned to be able to spike a mangers drinks with Ritalin just to discover wheather he would turn into a human being without his condition.....

    How I thank $deity that I don't work for that scumbag anymore.

    1. Dr Paul Taylor

      Re: Pperhaps the start of a series...

      I've known bipolar people and haven't a clue how you deal with them. They can be very scary when they're at the wrong pole and no amount of telling them that you want to be their friend seems to help matters. Surely interacting with a colleague or friend with Asberger's is a doddle compared to dealing with bipolar people.

  30. Shy Guy

    Aspergers Test

    For those curious, but who don't feel like seeing a GP about it, I have found this online test quite helpful as a guide.

    I too identified with lots of aspects, and on taking the test came out as borderline. It's obviously not an official diagnosis, but is from a reputable source. Hope it is of some help!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Aspergers Test

      Found that test online, scored 34, tried a load of other online tests and scored 'highly' in all of them. I work in a highly technical role. I've tried to escape 'IT' quite a few times but just keep falling back into it because (imho) I'm bloddy good at problem solving and spotting patterns in stuff.

      I'm a total perfectionist, always has been and I've never underwood people who aren't. After reading all this stuff everything seems to make more sense now.

      Can't say that I'm overly surprised and I'm not upset by the prospect of 'suffering' from Aspergers, if anything I'm pretty cool with it, it's everyone else without Aspergers that I kind of feel a bit sorry for.

      The prospect of talking to a doctor to confirm my self diagnosis is quite high, yet I'm strangely retisient about talking to my G.P. (got enough shit going on with me ticker as is already).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Aspergers Test

      >obviously not an official diagnosis

      It's not a diagnostic test at all, was a research instrument aimed at mapping familiar traits against population's actually predicated on the assumption that 'engineer types' will have a much higher AQ. If you don't score high, you may well be in the wrong job as a reader here.

      Asperger's hasn't been used as a clinical diagnosis in the UK for several years - from a credible clinician you might get a diagnosis of ASD couched in terms of 'used to be called Asperger's' - but this isn't going to be after a single visit or a few questionnaires - it will involve a series of long interviews with you, your family and others who know you well, watched you grow up etc

      1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

        Re: Aspergers Test

        "If you don't score high, you may well be in the wrong job as a reader here."

        *cough* 18 *cough*

      2. Rukario

        Re: Aspergers Test

        If you don't score high, you may well be in the wrong job as a reader here.

        Here's another, a 150-question version:

        At the end of it, you get a PDF with a 14-page analysis based on the questions, starting with a radar chart:

        Not at all a diagnosis, of course, it is after all, a quiz on teh internetz. I wonder how to answer the questions to make a cat face on the chart.

  31. Gav

    I am not a sufferer of Asperger's.

    However, in reading this excellent article I couldn't help feeling that wouldn't it be bloody wonderful if we were all treated like Aspies at work. Just imagine if everyone said precisely what they wanted and when they wanted it, then left you the hell alone to get on with it. If everyone stopped playing office politics. If things people said and did never had an unspoken ulterior motive. If work communications were terse, to the point, and honest.

    The time and stress it would all save!

  32. Andrew Moore

    Don't forget us poor bastards with LLI

    Low Latent Inhibition- the opposite of aspergers.

    1. Haku

      Re: Don't forget us poor bastards with LLI

      We should feel sorry for the 'poor bastards' on those 'talent' shows???

  33. Spoonsinger

    Looking at the Wikipidia article for this disorder,

    I would have thought that anybody who doesn't have one or more of the conditions associated with it, is basically a social, (regardless of gregariousness), and technical, (ability wise), cabbage in reality and probably shouldn't be employed in anything more taxing than chicken grading, sales or HR.

  34. Pileus

    A really excellent article. Thank you for taking the time to write it. I'm sure we all recognise the traits you describe in ourselves to some extent. My son (now 11) was diagnosed with mild aspergers some years back, he manages it well most of the time, of course his peers still notice he is "different". Your writing has given me some new ways to help him and inspiration for his future.. I'll get him to read the article! Just wanted to say it is appreciated...

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    print("Hello, World! Fuck!");


    1. SoaG


      No you're not.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Wrong affliction, Sunshine. That would be Tourette's.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A good side of being an Aspie

    I'm myself a mild case of Asperger's. My earliest memories from school are of myself learning how my mates react to different thing to be able to mimic them. So I did compensate and by the time I went to college no one suspected anything. With the exception of my girlfriend (an later wife) who did not mind. So I was lucky.

    What did I study? Physics. Not a surprise here. I am now in a management position in applied physics. Meetings and paperwork are boring chores but something I learned to survive. Having an opinion of being an eccentric helps and in applied physics it is something which does not hinder one's career.

    I am a boss of fellow physicists meaning also some worse cases than myself. I have much better rapport with them then the previous head of our group and I know exactly why. But there is another good side of being a mild case of Asperger's. We had a girl employee who told me when she was quitting that I did not like her. I had no idea what she meant as I believed I never showed her any negative feelings. Later I learned her preferred method of career advancement was getting laid with the boss. Then everything clocked together. She had tried to seduce me and I did not notice.

    Sometimes it is a good thing to be slightly socially challenged...

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Very interesting article made me start to consider my own traits.

    I wouldn't say I fit all those traits but I fit a few. I do not trust anyone unless they show me they can be trusted first, if I do trust you count yourself very lucky and I will share anything with you. I have two friends I do trust, one is my wife the other my good mate from work. I hate people being vague and wishy washy that really gets my goat big time, I want to thrash out details there and then. Discussions usually involve me constantly playing Devil's Advocate on all sides of any argument trying to get the discussion to flow to a precise conclusion. My main hobby is purely solitary, completely artistic and in no way connected to my logical day job. While I don't need extremely specific routines, the general flow of my day has to conform to patterns, if it deviates it upsets my balance and I feel out of sorts. I much prefer people to simply state "can we have such and such by XYZ date", then I have time to drop the points in and re-arrange the daily flow for the next few days/weeks. However to counteract all that I do love extremely subtle, dark humour with complex details, often to the point where very few people would understand the references implied. I like movies that have lots of overlapping plot-lines that you have to really pay attention to, almost like a complex RPG game, the threads constantly flowing and you have to keep them all in mind and try to work out where they go in a story.

  38. Nightkiller

    After reading all of these posts, it's amazing that the human race has come as far as it has without putting a name to all of these ranges.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not really, no. We are all lone prisoners in our own unique worlds - in other words, the possibility to experience life through anybody else's eyes than our own is closed to us. So we just go on taking for granted that life works for everybody else basically the same way it works for us - unless we're different enough to be forced to recognize that's clearly not so, even if we don't know why; however, the average "normal person" never gets that wake-up call.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Know thyself. Managers, know your people

    It's all about the management really, isn't it? If you are a good manager, then you know that X talks a good game but has the technical skills of an 8 year old, Y is a night owl and Z has no filter. It's up to you to put the team you are given into a shape that gets your objectives done *and* develops your people.

    When you interview, ask questions about how they develop their staff and their management. If they give you a typical "we send you on a blah blah certification blah blah" answer, that's bad. If they talk about the relationship between manager and managee, or regular status meetings to set goals, or people development, that's encouraging.

  40. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    Does anyone remember the two guys from MIT in "War Games" that David met while looking for the passwords to WOPR?

  41. fortran


    I had never heard of autism or Asperger's Syndrome before December of 2000. Then slashdot had a thread commenting on a Wired article which got into the cost of social services in high tech places like silicon valley. It seems a lot of high functioning men and women on the spectrum end up in such places, marry and have children. And the odds (from the article) of any given child being severely autistic was something like 60%. I don't remember if the source of that statistic was referenced or not. But, the article and the slashdot comments sure rung a bell with me.

    I immediately took a disliking to how a diagnosis was made, it was all the opinion of some person. What is the probability of this person's diagnosis being negative (not on the spectrum) when it should be positive? And it is likely that this probability is not a constant. If the person doing the diagnosing did not get their morning coffee, they might have a greater probability of making certain kinds of errors. Genetic tests and function MRI seem much more reasonable to me. I was never tested, but I tick far too many boxes.

    A year or so after learning of autism, a downturn in the economy ended my job. I was working for a branch of the government doing something technical, but not what I was trained for. I asked the HR department about what to do with my new found knowledge of autism. They said I should keep it secret. By some measures, I had been trying my best to find engineering employment for 18 years at that point and keeping it secret because I didn't know. I tried for 5 years to find work without mentioning it, and seen no difference in the interest from employers. And the more I thought about it, it is silly to keep it secret. If we ever get to an interview, we are pretty much screwed if the interviewer doesn't know we are autistic. Being ignorant does not always work in an effort to be fair, and with autism I don't think it works very often.

    I have eye contact problems, but it seems to be tied in to light intensity and quality in some way. I see people as having two emotions, happy and something else. The something else varies from person to person. Because I recognize happy (upwards parabola), I have developed a persistent sense of humour. One researcher I wrote to, thought that excessive honesty in the autistic is likely the result of just being exceptionally bad at lying. A common example about autistic children is the parent asking the child "You want a cookie?" and the child replying "You want a cookie.". The researcher explains the autistic child is mixing up pronouns. The child doesn't know the difference between a pro noun and an amateur noun, the child thinks that one of his (or her) names is "You". There seems to be a huge lack of information as to what is a principle symptom of autism, and was is a learned reaction when some set of principle symptoms is present.

    Engineering is a career that often draws in the high functioning autistic. But it seems likely, that not all kinds of engineering are equally attractive. Mechanical and civil engineering are nominally defined by F=ma. Electrical engineering is nominally defined by V=iR. And those are the 3 largest branches of engineering. I can imagine some going into chemical engineering, where the rules are nominally book-keeping (the sum of the atoms in equals the sum of the atoms out) at steady state. Most people are familiar with those rules in high school, to choose one of those branches of engineering makes sense. The rules for materials science and engineering (MSE) can overlap chemical engineering, but really the rules of MSE are quantum mechanics and statistical mechanics. And I suspect even today, most B.Sc. graduates of MSE don't have the theoretical background to understand the rules.

    It looks like I am being forced down the open your own business track. Doing so without resources isn't easy. Everything is too expensive. And if a person becomes successful, how do you manage employees?

    1. fortran

      More Rambling

      Someone mentioned suffering from autism (or Asperger's). I don't suffer from Asperger's, I suffer from society.

      For the first 18 years of my professional life, a trained professional probably could have easily noticed I was autistic. HR is in a sense, industrial psychology. Why did none of those bozos ever recognize I was different, and on their own treat my application differently? At that time, I never had any badge on my shift saying I was different. I tried just as hard as anyone to find a start to my chosen career, why were the only jobs I found the ones where I was probably the only applicant?

      A word which pops up with autism, is savant. About half of the people in the world with Savant Syndrome are neurotypical, and half are autistic. (The last I researched, those were the only groups which displayed Savant Syndrome.) Only about 10% of people with autism are considered high functioning. The high functioning autistic savant or Asperger's savant is just a little more unusual.

      What clues a person in about Savant Syndrome? If you have a parent who has something like perfect pitch or photographic memory, you might look for signs of Savant Syndrome.

    2. codeusirae

      Re: Rambling

      "It looks like I am being forced down the open your own business track. Doing so without resources isn't easy. Everything is too expensive. And if a person becomes successful, how do you manage employees?"

      People are genetically programmed to be a hierarchical animal, so they'll do exactly what you tell them. Soon they'll begin to copy your dress sense and mannerisms.

    3. tony2heads

      Re: Rambling

      I knew a guy who was a great engineer, but was promoted to a managerial position - where he was struggling.

      During the final year at work he had a chance to do some engineering again, while the new manager was starting up, and was visibly much happier there.

      I also know a senior scientist who was sent on a course for prospective directors, but he said to me that nobody asked him if he wanted the job. He said that he would hate it, as there would be no scope for him to do the stuff he truly enjoyed.

      advice: find a reliable friend or relation who will help with the business side & keep to your strengths.

  42. Richard Pennington 1

    And what about interviews?

    As an undiagnosed-but-pretty-certain Aspie, I fully sympathise with most of the Aspie commenters above. I also have problems with sound sensitivity, to the extent that I would stay late at the office so as to get some quiet time to get all the work done.

    I, too, went on a course and got some off-scale results on a Myers-Briggs assessment a few years back.

    However, having been made redundant a couple of years ago, I ran into another problem. I have a difficulty with job interviews - in normal times I can cope, but in the current economic climate I have been frozen out of the job market for more than two years.

    I have about the best possible presentation of Asperger's syndrome (multiple interests, which is unusual, strong mathematical and linguistic performance, and extremely strong academic performance, up to and including a PhD). My IQ is off-scale one way and my EQ off-scale the other way.

    My self-assessment is that I am technically very strong but would struggle with either management or sales. Also, I am extremely non-confrontational (so I am prone to being bullied), I do not interview well, and I am prone to near-panic over the telephone.

    1. fortran

      Re: And what about interviews?

      I think you probably need to head the start a business route too. Just don't wait as long as I did. Minimum commercial space tends to be 1000 square feet, and finding that small is difficult. Everyone wants long term leases and expensive rents where I live. Trying to gather these resources after a decade without income is harder than just a couple of years out.

      Good luck.

  43. fortran

    Finding Work

    There is a company out of Denmark (I believe) that specializes in hiring autistic people for software testing purposes. I believe the owner has an autistic son, and there have been articles in the press about him and this company. One of the more recent articles, was that SAP is going to try to attain a certain fraction of autistic employees, and they are going to use this Danish company as a HR department in that regard.

    There is a USA company which often gets military contracts, so being a USA citizen is probably mandatory, which is called Applied Research Associates. Head office is Albuquerque, they have other offices. On their careers page, is a link to allow someone with special conditions (such as autism) to ask for special processing. I think this is something that all companies that might hire high functioning autistics should employ. The problem is, I can also see a part of the population who doesn't need help in finding work, abusing the system. And so I think the companies that employ this, really should run a blacklist of people who seek to abuse this.

    I have been trying to get my engineering association to come up with a policy with respect to companies hiring "learning disabled" people. Who knows if they will? I think employers need to be pushed into being more proactive on the issue of hiring people with autism, and probably other traits such as dyslexia. I am unsure about dyslexia, as most people I have talked to about this that have dyslexia, have not felt that they have had problems in finding work.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hold on.

    Mentors, support groups? Whatever happened to trying to act normal and just blending in? I wouldn't want to draw that much attention to myself nor get special treatment. Blending in is hard and takes a lot of learning, adapting and observing but surely better that than 'You have to excuse my behaviour but I am....."

    Wild horses wouldn't get me bragging about it and wearing a badge, it's the tried and tested method for me.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hold on.

      Do you not think that it would be more beneficial to society to understand and embrace the differences in how people function while embracing diversity in thinking? Why should one demographic feel they can impinge the adoption and emulation of their own base societal behavioural and personality traits on another for whom they are unnatural and false?

      I don't draw attention to my Aspiness, primarily owing to the stigma that this article highlights. However it's part of my psychology and despite the years of being bullied and castigated for being different, It's been more of a benefit to me in my career rather than a hindrance.

      The people that need to change are those who cannot see the value of those who question and analyse things differently to them - but difference has always been frighting to the weak of mind.

  45. Vociferous

    Aspies are 13 to the dozen.

    It's the popular of the new in-diseases, because it's a) a license to be an asshole and b) isn't associated with impaired mental faculties (which people for some reason interprete as aspies being geniuses).

    A real aspie is a severely socially handicapped person. It's obvious to all and sundry that there's something wrong with him. He can't stop talking about his favorite subject (models of light bulbs, characters in a particular japanese manga...), and he's got spasms and difficulty modulating his voice.

    But that's not your average aspie today. Your average aspie today is an awkward teen who doesn't like being ordinary.

    1. Sean Timarco Baggaley

      Re: Aspies are 13 to the dozen.

      Actually, as another poster mentioned earlier, the term "Asperger's" is no longer used.

      Spectra and continua are increasingly being used in diagnoses, instead of the older, 'digital' approach that required ticking a very specific list of boxes to obtain a diagnosis.

      The human brain is such a complex organ* that the very idea that "normal" people even exist is just bizarre. It's far more likely that people with fully-functioning brains are actually quite rare, while the rest of us range from the extremely knackered to the only slightly buggered. And that buggeredness could be anything, from a poor sense of direction, through to something like colour-blindness or a potentially terminal inability to read user guides (or see the bloody great "Help" menu right up there at the top of the window. Look! See? That! What do you think it's for?)

      Asperger's is not – and never has been – a license to be an asshole, not least because "asshole" is a very subjective description and depends on your point of view. Most people seem to believe the late Steve Jobs was a right tosser, but Jony Ive, Tim Cook and their colleagues don't appear to have thought so.

      However, "high functioning" sufferers can also learn to be sociable. Many things most "normal" people seem to be able to do subconsciously, such as reading body language in real time, is something we "data-processing impaired" have to concentrate on consciously – often to the point where we end up with splitting headaches from trying to process all the data.

      I'm one of those who also struggle with noisy environments. I've found lip-reading helps, and also goes a long way towards countering the eye-contact avoidance problem too, but it often makes moi brain 'urt!

      Which is why I hate parties.

      * You, sir, have a filthy, filthy mind.

      1. Vociferous

        Re: Aspies are 13 to the dozen.

        See, the problem with the "spectrum" thinking is that we're all on some spectrum. We're all of us aspies to SOME degree, which makes the diagnosis worthless. For instance, you seem to be what until ten years ago was called "introverted", which was considered a character trait but not a mental illness at all.

        No, scratch that: that we're all on some spectrum is the whole POINT of having these spectra because when every kid has a diagnosis, as one psychologist I talked to put it, "abnormal is the new normal". And this is a great thing because it removes the stigma of mental illness.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Aspies are 13 to the dozen.


      1. Vociferous

        Re: Aspies are 13 to the dozen.

        > twat

        Oh you just hate me because I have asperger's and therefore am superior to you and don't give a shit how people feel.

        1. fruitoftheloon

          Re: Aspies are 13 to the dozen.

          How can I hate you, I haven't even met you...?

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well, if you work for the kind of company

    Where the HR department doesn't rule the roost, and where the people doing the recruiting don't use the term 'people person' like that is the only thing that matters, I suspect you'd find the Aspergers people hard to spot due to to all the other strange folk*. I've had the pleasure of working in such a diverse environment. Sadly, it changed, and the risk averse people took over.

    * Would love to say I've seen it all, but I've had relatively few employers. Suffice to say, I now know that not all voices in the head scream "Kill them". Apparently some of those voices drone on about the nuances of code....

  47. fortran

    DSM-5 Book Review

    In a few places today, there are reviews of DSM-5.

    Everybody has there own set of TLAs, and DSM may not mean anything. DSM is the "bible" the Psychiatry "profession" uses: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, volume 5. One book report had this quote:

    > Above all, psychiatrists need to be more honest with their patients, he believes. “They shouldn’t tell people their illness is caused by a chemical imbalance when there is no evidence this exists. Psychiatry has little knowledge of the underlying processes governing mental health and it should not pretend otherwise.”

    The book is: The Book of Woe: The DSM and the Unmaking of Psychiatry’ by Gary Greenberg is published by Ingram International Inc.

    In DSM-5, Asperger's Syndrome has been removed, and it is just some part of ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder).

    1. Persona non grata

      Re: DSM-5 Book Review

      Yes - it's medicalization of awkwardness. Still you can pretend there's a solution if you have a label.

      Real autism on the other hand is a serious and often tragic condition.

      1. fortran

        Re: DSM-5 Book Review

        What do you call "real autism"?

        There are people who are severely autistic. They will never be able to hold down a job, and will always need to be under someone's care. There are high functioning autistics (who have an IQ (however that is defined) more than 100, more than average), these people should be capable of adding to the value (GDP) of society. And we have the people in between, some of whom can be expected to be capable or working, but really aren't expected to add value to society. But we always get surprises.

        I am hopeless at dating (and I despise suggestions that I should consider homosexual relationships because I am hopeless at forming heterosexual relationships), and I am almost hopeless at applying for jobs? Does that make me a "real austitic"? Or are you just being a "real jerk"?

        1. Vociferous

          Re: DSM-5 Book Review

          You may just be a fuck-up. Or shy. Or lazy. Or an abrasive asshole.

          We are all on some spectrum of some kind, but not everything is a mental illness.

  48. JOKM


    Its a harsh world, you can't expect people to treat you differently. in fact the only thing you can expect and should expect of people is to treat you the same as everyone else.

    So although I sympathise, and I have my own similar difficulties I can not accept the general sentiment of this article, that you are at loggerheads with the world. Mainly because the world doesn't care, the majority of people on this forum will forget what they have written and get on with their lives oblivious to its contents 5 minutes after leaving this page.

    I can accept however that you have found life difficult and rather than working through those issues and accepting them you are looking for someone to blame, and you have chosen everyone that hasn't decided to treat you as special!

    Disability mental or physical) should never be used as an excuse, it demeans those who manage with similar conditions who manage without requesting special favor. Sure ask for help, but don't expect others to treat you differently

  49. Herbert Fruchtl

    "Some were like: "Meh, whatever!", some were busy looking their watches: "Is it lunchtime yet?""

    Are you surprised? It's like announcing that you're a redhead: everybody knew already, and it doesn't make a difference whatsoever. That your boss used it as a context to get rid of you is sad, but it sounds like this would have happened anyway. The only difference the official diagnosis makes is that you could have had the b*st*rd for constructive dismissal.

    As you can see from the overwhelming "me too" response to this article, there are jobs (particularly in IT) where half the workforce are somewhere on that spectrum, many proudly so. I am working with a maths department at a university, and there it's three quarters. And I feel right at home there...

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Hold on.

    "Do you not think that it would be more beneficial to society to understand and embrace the differences in how people function while embracing diversity in thinking?"

    No, because that road has no end. You just end up accommodating more and more people. It is far, far easier for a minority of people to learn to act normal than for a majority to learn all about each various minority and accept their quirks.

    As for imposing their traits, I'm sorry but the answer is simple, they are the right traits. They are the traits that further the species - being social, working with others, behaving appropriately and fitting in. We are the deficient ones and we are extremely lucky that we live in an age where those deficiencies aren't as noticeable as they once were.

    "It's been more of a benefit to me in my career rather than a hindrance."

    That's precisely my point. Autism has its pros and cons, why should we be allowed to enjoy the pros but then have a free pass for the cons? I realized from a young age that what I lacked in some areas, I more than made up for in others. More importantly the areas where I was lacking, I could learn to be better.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hold on.

      >That's precisely my point. Autism has its pros and cons, why should we be allowed to enjoy the pros but then have a free pass for the cons?

      We aren't - for high functioning ASDs it's really a case of building masks, mindsets and developing coping strategies for the crap you must necessarily face. UK case law, lost employment tribunals etc, have established it's perfectly legal to dismiss people with ASD if the condition conflicts with their role.

      IT is a good career choice - the cliche about no-one caring how often you wash your shirt if your code is clean - but ASD won't entitle you (legally) to special treatment . Speaking as some who was diagnosed at uni in the early 90s, I would say generally it's a bad idea to 'come out' unless you're very certain about your usefulness to, and the awareness of, your employer...

      ...from an employers perspective there are obvious risks - customers don't always (ever) appreciate the literal pragmatism of ASD, team dynamics are often problematic and more than half of those meeting the old AS criteria [some studies found up to 75%, most 50-60%] have co-morbid psychiatric disorders....increasingly an issue when there's health insurance involved - but also a genuine stigma in respect of ASD.

      ...just something to think about, before anyone jumps on the current self-diagnosis band wagon or to the quack pseudo clinicians who are more than plentiful in this area and will happily take your money.

  51. fortran

    Why Considering Autism is Important

    Autism is a social problem. Hiring is a social activity.

    HR (semi-skilled industrial psychologists) or not, the hiring process is a patchwork of ideas and processes going back 350 years or more. Ideas at the beginning will have assumed that the properties of mankind are single moded and follow a Gaussian distribution. Trying to follow all the latest "improvements" to the hiring process, what seems to be the norm is to be ever more intrusive and yet still apply the idea that mankind is a single moded distribution. In the last decade, I haven't seen a single improvement proposed by people on the HR side, that would actually benefit people with autism. In general, they would all make things worse.

    How can people propose changes to the hiring process, which increase the discrimination on autistics? I have tried to engage the HR industry, I never get replies. Either they think my concerns are wrong (so why not engage in debate?) or they are just interested in profit motive.

    Discrimination against "differently coloured" people in the past (and now) was concious. Discrimination against high functioning autistics in technology is still for the most part unconcious. But society needs to realize it is discriminating against autistics, if for no other reason, to stop the presentation of new methods in HR hiring management which just make things worse for autistic applicants.

    1. Vociferous

      Re: Why Considering Autism is Important

      > Discrimination against high functioning autistics in technology is still for the most part unconcious

      As is, I feel, the rampant discrimination against tall dwafs.

  52. Alistair

    This is an excellent article on Aspergers in the workplace. I'll have to get my middle child (HFA) to read it. He's just started a work placement/internship out of school.

    Me on the other hand, if I don't have 6 things to work on at the same time, I get bored. Oh -- look a squirrel,

    I've been ADD for lets see ...

    Hey -- look, update for RHEL5!

    many years now... but sometimes it

    (edited that for ya, you should be good to go now)


    And some folks just thing I'm plain insane.

  53. OzBob

    LOL. I think I might have Aspergers

    because when I was trying to fix a problem last year, everyone at the client who knew the technicians names and phone numbers kept calling and asking for an update. I ended up picking up my phone at the 12th call, saying "the problem will continue as long as everyone keeps bugging me for updates. you are not important enough to be briefed directly, so phone the helpdesk". I then took my phone off the hook and shouted my progress updates across the partition to the lone helpdesk operator. Needless to say, my boss had a quiet word to me later about talking to the client "in my ubiquitous manner". I stuck to my guns and pointed out the helpdesk and him are there to keep this sort of shit away from me when I am working on a problem like this.

  54. Peter2 Silver badge

    I have a medical textbook on my desk called "neuropsychology; the neural basis of mental function". It is intended for people who already have a medical degree. I don't have a medical degree or any formal training, however having a different neurological layout to many other people I have developed *some* interest in the area.

    This textbook describes the 9 (currently recognised) areas in the brain (namely motor control, object recognition, spacial processing, attention span, language, memory, executive function, emotion, and artistry) that will function at different levels in any person. Consider it. In your own environment you will see people that are above or below average in at least one of these areas.

    People who have a lower attention span (similar to a goldfish) are "blonde" or have ADHD at the extreme edges.

    People with high attention spans may also be known as "programmers", and disturb their several hour long concentration fests at your own peril.

    You'll meet "ditsy" person with low motor control and spacial processing who always drop things, or Cerebral palsy at the extreme edges.

    You'll meet people with extremely high motor control spacial processing. They get called athletes.

    You'll meet people with extremely low levels of emotion such as empathy. Such people are often found in politics or selling used cars.

    You'll meet people with extremely low levels of artistry, who manage to make an incredible system and then stick a abysmal GUI on it. We call them programmers and pair them with people who can only do pretty UI's.

    Now, you can go on with this for quite some time, but the end result is that you can postulate that people with better systematising and memory skills are more likely to be drawn to engineering or technical fields as these fields reward people with a better memory and the ability to think logically.

    In my view, the currently recognised autistic spectrum is simply a set of specificly visible ranges of these neurological traits. They have to be seriously visible, because autism is diagnosed by psychologists on the basis of symptoms the psychologist perceives in the course of an interview. Where a psychologist will happily diagnose a child as being autistic, it gets steadily more difficult as the person learns to mimic socially acceptable behaviours to the point where out of the teen years it's virtually impossible to make a diagnosis based on displayed symptoms.

    Two of the areas I mentioned above are wonderfully and wilfully misunderstood.

    1) Executive function

    Many people who read of this area consider it as "intelligence" as in relating to IQ points where it is more accurate to describe executive function as being abstraction layers. A neurologically typical person has a range of abstraction layers automating tasks such as socialisation. However these abstraction layers remain in use when not being used, wasting significant amounts of processing power. People with low executive function have few obstacles to concentrating the entire of their processing power on one task. Additionally, they may be aware of inputs that are usually discarded by higher level abstraction layers. This means that occasionally people with lower executive function will do a lot of "out of the box" thinking that can result in intellectual leaps forward, instead of incremental improvements that can be more usually expected by people with a higher level of executive thinking.

    2) Emotion

    This is another area that is willfully misunderstood. It is commonly suggested by the willfully ignorant that having a low level of emotion somehow inevitably creates a criminal, serial killer etc. This is both incorrect and absurd. I can attest to this since I have a low level of emotion and I have yet to develop any desire to start stealing candy from babies, or wantonly killing people in job lots. On the contrary, a low level of emotion can be useful to both the individual and society.

    Coming home on the bus one day, while the bus was stationary letting somebody exit the bus the driver sharply and loudly swore. This unusual event drew my attention to the front of the bus, where I saw a car with a white cloud expanding out of the front. My first thought was that the radiator had "blown up", with the immediate follow up thought that sights like that were only seen in hollywood as they are physically impossible in the real world, and a general feeling that something was quite badly wrong entered my mind simultaneously with a shapeless bundle of rags detaching from the front of the car. A person uttering in shock that "he hit him!" presented the realisation that the bundle of rags was an airborne body that the car had hit at some speed, and my next thought was I was a First Aider, and that I needed to be at the site of the accident. I was later told that I exploded into action "instantly" while everybody was stuck staring in shock, and that I cleared the bus heading for the accident before the casualty had hit the ground.

    As a point of detail, that person lived. So did the heart attack, stab wound and cardiac arrest that I have since dealt with. I don't expect any reward for this, on the contrary I would rather completely forget situations that are so mentally and emotionally traumatic. However, As one might imagine, I do find the implication or assumption that I am inevitably fated to become a serial killer grossly and gratuitously offensive and I would welcome some public education on the subject.

    1. Sean Timarco Baggaley


      The "emotionless = violent psychopathic killer" connection is made by people (and TV and movie writers) who appear incapable of understanding that even anger is itself an emotion.

      Why would someone who doesn't react much to any emotion decide to suddenly make an exception and explode with rage and fury? It's not that emotions aren't there, it's just that they're felt nowhere near as intensely, be it joy or sadness, love or hate.

      Such people tend to do well in jobs where what they have to do would turn any other person into a gibbering emotional wreck.

      How you express your emotions is a far better indicator how violent you're likely to be. If you're someone who feels every emotion intensely, you will feel both joy and sadness, love and hate intensely. If you're also prone to bottling-up your emotions and venting only when that metaphorical bottle is full to bursting, you're likely to be far more dangerous than anyone on the Autism Spectrum.

      I suspect that such emotional issues are more closely linked to current theories on depression and related disorders rather than the data-processing / management problems characteristic to autism. (Indeed, there's no reason to assume someone cannot have both an ASD and, say, clinical depression.)

      The mammalian brain is a complex machine – far more so than any computer. Yet we've had the latter around for about 60 years now and, despite a CPU being essentially a collection of transistors, the behaviour of each of which should be entirely predictable, we still struggle to write bug-free software to this day. It's not the hardware that's difficult, but the code that runs on it.

      The theories and hypotheses we have on the brain itself are pretty much at a similar level: we have a pretty good idea what individual synapses and neurones are, but have barely scratched the surface of what it is they actually do all day.

      1. Peter2 Silver badge

        Re: @Peter2:

        Quite. The majority of psychology will be going in the bin within my lifetime due to advances in our understanding of Neurology. What we know now appears to fatally undermine an assumptions that much of our society is based on- that everybody is born equal. If your brain chemistry dictates as much as it appears, then people aren't born equal and therefore that entire school of thought has no basis in fact.

        Neurology is actually quite an interesting subject but I'm quite taken with how current neurology research appears to totally ignore the wider state of the body. I think at some point there is going to be a realisation that people with food intolerance due to enzyme defects are going to have different brain chemistries to other people since their enzyme's aren't processing food A to chemical B, which is a precursor of chemical C which buggers up entire chains of chemical reactions that ultimately logically prevents a neurologically typical starting environment from forming. It stands to reason this will affect the later formation of the brain.

        Knowing how hard it is getting 3rd line resources talking to each other about a problem in IT, I don't hold out much hope for the equivalent grade of medical researchers getting their heads together in the near future.

        1. DropBear

          Re: @Peter2:

          Any attempt to suggest that equal opportunity is something that can possibly exists in real life is so laughably misguided that it's not even funny. No. Such. Thing. Possible. We are all slightly or less slightly different and even initially placed in lab-level identical circumstances we start relating to the world - and the world to us - in immediately diverging ways. In other words, I'm hard pressed to think of anything at all that would be experienced the same way and / or handled with the same profficiency by, say, Hawking and Beckham. It's the exact same thing for all of us, only to a lesser degree. "If I can do it so can you" is for idiots.

  55. Stretch


    While I read much in this article I see in myself, I have never liked the labeling used here. I don't have a syndrome, I don't believe such things exist. I am different to you, and others are different again. What is the norm from which I deviate?

  56. Ian Johnston Silver badge

    "Sorry" is the hardest word.

    Is this El Reg trying to make up for the huge number of articles it ran about Gary McKinnon in support of the notion that people with Asperger's are paranoid, unreliable and destructive? Because after that, what sane manager would employ or retain someone with Asperger's?

    1. Sean Timarco Baggaley

      Re: "Sorry" is the hardest word.

      No, this is what happens when a publication has more than one writer working for it. Different writers = different perspectives.

      Also, some forms of what was once known as Asperger's Syndrome do are linked to high levels of paranoia and destructive behaviour. The term "ASD" was created for a reason and this is one of them. A person closer to the High Functioning end of the ASD will be able cope with "normals" with a bit of help. As you get closer to the other end of the ASD, you get people who simply cannot function at all in ordinary society. Such people are often completely isolated from the people around them and, yes, paranoia and destructive behaviours are not uncommon.

      And this is a "spectrum" – think of it as like a timeline, with one end of the line being "normal" and the other end labelled "completely hatstand". People with Asperger's Syndrome tend to be closer to the "normal" end, but the boundary between "Asperger's" and full-cream "Autism" was never satisfactorily and unanimously defined. Hence the replacement of the multiple variants with just one: Autism Spectrum Disorder.

      Describing McKinnon as "paranoid, unreliable and destructive" would be quite valid if his diagnosis puts him closer to the full "hatstand" end of that X-axis. The worse your Autism, the harder it is to cope with other people in any way at all – even your own parents.

      An appearance of paranoia is not uncommon as you move away from the 'high functioning' end of the spectrum, but you need to understand that we typically apply such descriptions based purely on outward behaviour; it can be difficult to tell if what we call "paranoia" is simply a manifestation of a more general, deep-rooted, terror of that constant torrential flood of data an autistic person is faced with during their every waking hour. Similarly, what an observer would consider "destructive behaviour" might have a perfectly rational explanation for the sufferer.

      If any readers here have never read Oliver Saks' seminal "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat" and related books, I strongly recommend you do so.

  57. Paul Bartlett


    Excellent article. I think HRs political correctness was misguided.

    There are many aspies in IT, esp. programming, as you mentioned, it is generally a safer place where you can immerse yourself and concentrate with less disturbances than other service jobs. I have met a few people who certainly have the traits, so I would not be surprised if they are on the spectrum. Without exception, they are exceptional and very talented. Highly intelligent and very fair. Of course, their social skills are not great.

    I read a book, The Complete Gulde to Aspergers, which is a very good, yet complex book by Tony Attwood. Interestingly, he said that when he first diagnoses an aspie, he says congratulations. Aspies are typically far more talented that NTs.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Paul Bartlett

      I just looked up the Tony Attwood book on Amazon and it is listed as having a publication date of 1 Feb 1754. That's really bad for the Asperger's.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @Paul Bartlett

        Having personally met Tony Attwood, I can assure you he's not that old to have published a book back then. If you could get a screenshot of the page in question, I'm sure more than a few people (even Tony himself) would get a kick out of it. :-)

  58. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yeah, what if a psychiatrist says, uhm, with 80 % certainty we think.......

    Your coach says, well, it could be right for 78.5 %.

    The autism specialist says, you're definitely not in the autistic spectrum.

    then you are left clueless.

    But, gifted, hypersensitive, traumatised, .......

    Yeah, go on, everybody

    1. Vociferous

      Go ahead, call yourself an aspie. Everyone else does. That's how far we've fallen, that a debilitating mental illness has become something to aspire to and brag about.

  59. Carl


    Jes*s H Chr**t.

    Why does everyone need to "suffer" from something.

    The problem here is lack of empathy, ineffective relationship maintenance and out-and-out bullying.

    The boss you had in the first job? Moving goalposts, short deadlines? That's bullying, incompetent BS.

    20 years ago (maybe 40, I lost count) this behaviour was widely tolerated and "different" people then were black, gay, female, welsh, or any number of things that a bully would pick up on and use as a weapon to justify their crappy existence at the expense of ours.

    These days they can't do any of that because its verboten so they pick on the next level of "differences" - Aspergers, people with funny coloured hair, accents, weight etc. And if that ever gets barred it'll be the next level down: the "Golf Club" class of bullying based on what kind of car you have or what school you went to.

    Bottom line is the world's full of bullying pricks. Best bet is to knee them (and their f**king HR dept) square in the bollocks and let the chips fall where they fall.

  60. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    House trained ?

    If he is, he's a step above the onshore 'partners' we have in the office who seem to think a toilet is for standing on, and the bowl is a 'best effort' target - where missing simple means leaving the 'mr whippy' on the floor for the cleaner.

  61. IGnatius T Foobar
    Thumb Up

    True enough

    Offices can be hell, that's for sure. Many companies are set up to favor those who play politics well over those who actually have talent.

  62. DrStrangeLug

    We're not sufferer's , we're the future.

    I think we need to help those suffering from Technical Ability Disorder (TAD).

    TAD sufferers can be the fairly mild type, who need to call help when the printer jams or routinely double click everything. But there are so many serious sufferer's, the one who can't use series links on satellite boxes, or send every email in capslock with no full-stops. These are the full Untechincals. As the world moves on they must either have constant help or retreat to Amish like homes where technology rises no higher than the electric oven.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: We're not sufferer's , we're the future.

      More to the point, us Aspergers people are taking over… Diagnosis rates were something like 1:10000 when I was diagnosed (1987).

      That fell to 1:100 by the time I hit university.

      Soon, we'll be treating kids diagnosed as being "neurotypical".

  63. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I Had Asperger Syndrome. Briefly ..

    "The biggest single problem with the diagnostic criteria applied to me is this: You can be highly perceptive with regard to social interaction, as a child or adolescent, and still be a spectacular social failure. This is particularly true if you’re bad at sports or nervous or weird-looking."

  64. SoaG

    DSM-5 is a load of crap. So was most of the previous 4 for that matter. The author has been mis/over diagnosed. He is not at one end of an 'autism spectrum' as there is no such thing. He is at one end of the normal spectrum.

    That said, I'm glad his over diagnosis helped him realize that his old boss was a douchebag and he should move on,. Also that it made him more self-aware about how he differs from those at the other end of the normal spectrum.

    It is unfortunate (but typical) that the Type-As at the extreme other end of the normal spectrum suffer from the delusion that they're actually in the middle. Unfortunate because they gravitate to positions where the other 75% of people at various points across the normal spectrum have to work around their expectations, rather than everyone cutting everyone else some slack because we're all different. Heck, even spectrum isn't really an accurate term unless in terms of colours resulting from an obscenely complicated 3D Venn diagram.

  65. Longrod_von_Hugendong

    Best article...

    ever. Nuff said.

    1. Slacker@work

      Re: Best article...

      Got to agree, and look how much debate it has created? (OK even if some of the postings are by complete twats).

      Personally the authors story resonates with me deeply, especially when considering:

      1) my MB test shows me as INTJ

      2) My Aspie test comes back as a 29

      3) I'm a PRINCE2 Project manager (lots of lists and fine detail)

      4) Very high IQ, low EQ...

      5) Likes to work or chill out on my own

      6)) the list goes on (and yes I always make lists)

      Nice to see I'm in the right place then with all my fellow Aspies

  66. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Stress? I'll tell you what stress is!

    One of my (few) friends, who I've known since school some 25 years ago asked me to be best man at his wedding this year, and because he knows I have Aspergers and knows how to deal with me in that sense said that I didn't have to stand up in front of a crowd and do a speech......but being best man without a speech in the UK is like an Aspie without an obsession.

    So 5 days before the day I was starting to get quite agitated because I realised what that entailed and started working on it, went round to my brothers a couple of days later and he greatly helped as he'd been best man to a friend of his some years back.

    So on the day after the lunch meal I went back home and worked a little more on the speech, uploaded it to my 7" tablet and printed it out (backup), then at the pub in the evening where it was packed with people the groom knows the word got out that I was going to do the speech in 5 minutes, then more people came in from the garden area.

    If the amount of people wasn't enough to give me a heart attack the landlord handed me a wireless mic and told me to go stand in the spotlight to read the speech...

    I read the speech off my little tablet which really helped as it was backlit so the spolight didn't blind me and I had set the font size large enough to read easily (made it into a fixed-width webpage so FF enlarged it perfectly) and scrolled with my thumb.....I nailed it, the huge crowd (which I managed to not look at) loved it :)

    Never again though! No siree! No fucking way!

    1. Paul Bartlett

      Re: Stress? I'll tell you what stress is!

      Awesome story! For an NT a best mans speech is a major stress event, so as an aspie you must've nearly exploded. You are brilliant.

  67. jonfr

    I have aspergers and I can't get a job (last time I did try)

    I have asperger's syndrome and I can't get a job, at least last time I did try. So I am now just working for my self and trying not to starve since I only got fixed welfare income from Iceland (and that is bad due to moronic economical situation in Iceland). I am trying to work as an writer (I enjoy writing) and make a living out of that (It's not going so good at the moment). I am also good with technology (most commercial stuff, PC computers, routers and such things).

    I have tried to get a job in Denmark where I now live. But I am either not qualified or I just do not get any response when I apply for the job with an email (as appears to be common here in Denmark I think). I have problems with communications at times, but most days it works as it should work.

  68. randommagic

    Seeing a lot of comments about mental illness and Aspergers but its not a mental illness. The stress of not understanding something can cause some problems with depression and such but it isn't a mental illness at all. I can sometimes read emotions on someone's face but most of the time I fail to recognise it. I am seen as being cold because I show almost no emotion ever, mostly because I don't understand what emotions I should be displaying. I know lots of antisocial techs who just haven't learned to be social mainly because they spend all their time online yet they don't have Aspergers at all. They are just lacking in social skills. Yes some with Aspergers have innate abilities to find patterns and problem solving. I can take a problem and break it down into smaller problems solve each of them and put it back together again in the time it takes most people to read the problem which was great when I was a tech. When I became a manager I had no ability to manage anyone. I spent 2 years just trying to figure out all the social skills needed for that position and finding ways to associate what skills I had and to use them in different ways. It took 6 months of me analysing every single little thing I did at work and trying to match them to a competency that my company said I needed to develop before it sunk in that I could transfer the skills to do other things. 3 years on I am a completely different person but it took a lot of frustration and fights with my own manager going through that process but eventually it sinks in. Just because your gifted technically doesn't mean that is all you are. That ability to analyse can also solve business problems improving lots of business process and supply chain issues amongst other things. Understanding it is a skill and it is transferable actually opens up a lot of doors in your life. I no longer work in IT instead I work in a sales job selling storage and networking talking to anyone from IT workers to finance directors and company directors. I never thought I would be able to do that but hard work and determination can work wonders for everyone even those who's brains are superior like ours.

  69. Bradley Hardleigh-Hadderchance

    Stress? I'll tell you what stress is!

    That is just pure comedy gold AC @ 17:01

    That just proves how quickly a nightmare scenario can unfold. I can imagine it now: Your wireless microphone mercilessly feeding back, not just deafening you with your ultra-sensitive auditory perception, but pissing off a load of beered up punters to boot. Spotlight on you, blinding your sensitive little aspie eyes. :-)

    It could only have been worse if there was an unannounced anti-terrorist drill and you had got buzzed by black helicopters (with more spotlights and loudspeakers) and the boys in black unfurling themselves off long bits of rope to take you away for a bit of rubber hose cryptanalysis.

    But bravo! I wish I could have been there to experience it for myself (with some earplugs and a pair of shades of course). But yeah, never again! You know, people 'on the spectrum' might not always get the joke, but they remain to this day some of the funniest buggers I've ever come across. It's a wry, dry sense of humour, but hey, if you get it.... Maybe you had to be there!

    I see the same old 'ooh, you're just trying to be trendy' comments. It's ok. Let it out my little NT cousins, let it all out.

    I see the 'no way in hell am I tarring myself with that brush without having to' comments too. And that's ok, I don't bleeding blame you. Anything someone can use to get one over on you...

    I see the 'oh, we'll soon be having diagnostics for the colour of peoples eyes next' comments, and you too my perceptive little bedfellows are quite right as well.

    Then there are the 'we are all mad, it's just a case of how well you hide it, so just crack on' comments. And these are just as perceptive and valid imho too.

    But I think my favourite has been the 'we are all different and we should learn to accept and embrace that and not be afraid to be honest about who we are' comments. Believe me, I'm the first to puke an organ when it comes to American style therapy bullshit (no offence to our over the water relations). But yeah, I'm all for honesty and self-discovery. It's powerful stuff. I believe they are trying to make it illegal. :-)

    But anyway, I've learned a load from this thread. I've realised by following some of the links that I suffer from HSP syndrome too as well as being an aspie with PDD/NOs. HSP? I hear you clack into your little google box? HSP - Highly Sensitive Person syndrome! I shit you not. No, I'm serious. Deadly serious. I couldn't be more serious unless I was cancer.

    Look it up, follow the links, drink in the Dabrowski and the Jung. The R.D. Laing and the Maslow. Fascinating stuff. I now have another string to my bow. It's all about development or lack of. About being normal, but not quite. About bright lights, over sensitivity/excitability, to external stimuli and internal emotions. Conflict and resolution. Or not.

    I have high functioning autism. I didn't want it. I didn't ask for it. My family are ashamed of me. They think I am hiding behind a 'flag', in a 'box', 'trying to be trendy'. It's ok. I don't mention it any more to anyone. Certainly never when I f*** up. That would just seem like an excuse and give all you 'oh it's just an excuse for you to be an arsehole' crew somewhat of a valid argument. At least in your eyes. Even though it doesn't. Now you'll never know if I really am an arsehole or an aspie. Little secret, I _can_ be a total arsehole sometimes too.

    But I also display extremely high emotional intelligence. Probably not for you, because you, ironically enough as the NT are not capable of listening to a bloody word I'm saying. Then again, I can get the wrong end of the stick and get battered to a bloody pulp by a gaggle of stewed up brew-heads. It happens, not so much any more because I try to avoid those situations. I have blind spots. Do you get that?

    I have also learned not to avoid eye contact, to the point where I can actually stare at someone. Properly stare. I've done it to women out in public with my g/f. Totally innocent. But the repercussions aren't. Boy can you get into a lot of trouble for that. But sometimes, you just go into your own little world. It might be that you are thinking about a higher philosophical construct and your eyes just get 'locked' (honest your honour), or it might be that someone's face 'transports' you back twenty years to a long forgotten image of a friend (officer).

    Yes, the beatings come in all shapes and sizes.

    The majority of those who are truly on the spectrum will be co-morbid with far more serious stuff - anxiety - depression. According to some sources. Who knows? I don't. Some say that only one in 4000 people have aspergers. And it effects men by low digit multiples more than women. Do the math. Other figures are several orders of magnitude in the other direction. I honestly don't know.

    And as for 'high-functioning', it doesn't mean you are a savant. It means you are towards the end of the spectrum where NT people reside. Them being the most high-functioning of all. Chances are that you are not as clever as them because those with aspergers are actually slightly under average IQ. Then again, some say aspies are slightly over. Confusing eh? Who to believe? Who cares. Just crack on.

    I'm pretty clever. I have a broad spectrum intelligence. But I have blind spots. I supposedly have an IQ of 138 on the most well regarded test I could find on line (what a load of bollocks). And btw, I scored 38 on that online test that some one referred to earlier. Whilst there, I took the opportunity to understand a bit more about PDD/NOs but I still can't bloody understand it - no wonder they flattened the diagnostic for that in the manual. But here is what matters, when I went for a programming job, they gave me some kind of test. I failed miserably. They told me so. I was upset after spending a couple of years learning Java and not doing a bad job of it. But they said 'you'll never be a programmer son'. And they were right. I'm too thick.

    But to be perfectly honest, even with myself, I answered those questions semi randomly because I could feel a meltdown coming on. I answered the best I could. In truth, I just didn't know how to answer them. I knew how to score for a 'no you're not on the spectrum', and I knew how to answer for 'you are so on the spectrum'. But I really struggled with getting it 'just right'. I've found this with all tests I have done. And passed them all with flying colours - 'yup - on the spectrum'.

    Btw, when I was diagnosed by a consultant psychiatrist (who yawned in my face - wasn't sure if it was part of the test), it took him a flat 45 minutes to label me aspie. And a second session of shorter length for him to label me PDD-NOs. No family involved. No history as such.

    Anyway, just have to crack on.

    One has to regroup, find one's strengths. Don't focus on your positive points, focus on your negative points. Be brutal with yourself and forgiving and gracious towards others. That is how one grows. It is called personal development. I know. I have a diagnosed disorder of it. Not otherwise specified, of course....

    This has been a somewhat off the cuff, trite and glib post. I'll just leave it here:

    Someone you may think of as a 'retard', for that is what we really are - 'retards' by common definition - I would never use the term myself in RL (though I am proud to be a 'commentard'), and I use the word unashamedly and unreservedly - may one day be able to offer you support on a level you never knew existed between human beings based on your experience of NT relationships.

    And no, I'm not talking about 'have you tried switching it off and turning it on again' type support.


  70. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just finished my last Asperger diagnose session today as it happens. Soon I'll (probably) be joining the league of IT Aspies here on El Reg. Sad to say it took me 13 years of struggling on the job market before someone figured out what was going on. We'll see where the job future holds for me....

  71. Terry 6 Silver badge

    background noise

    Some posts back there was an untitled comment from someone who couldn't filter talk from background noise. I have that issue, I'm not on the spectrum, ( except in the sense that everyone is) but I do have a hearing perception problem "cocktail party sydrome". Probably mild compared to some comments I've read when I was searching for the references below.

    ASD types often are disturbed by noise. And as I understand it ASD personlities will tend to home in on a sound. But that wasn't what he was describing.

    CocktailPparty Syndrome simply means not being able to discriminate foreground sounds from background.

    (In fact there are several things called this - probably because cocktail parties were popular at the time.)

    I went to have my hearing checked some years ago. My hearing also checked out as normal, but I was told about this then- I still have the problem. It can be a real pain in the a***

    Here are some references I dug up. Most relevant mentions on the web tend to be selling a treatment of some sort- but that's the internet for you. :-(

    1. Bradley Hardleigh-Hadderchance

      Re: background noise

      I was told by a psychologist about 'cocktail syndrome' and it was the polar opposite of what it is supposed to be.

      He told me it was the ability for the human brain to wonderously filter out myriad conversations and home in on specific details that are being 'pattern matched' by the neural network of your wetware.

      Like I said. Polar opposite to the common interpretation.

      For example: You are at a party with loads of 'chatter'. You can't hear yourself think, let alone what that beautiful babe is trying to say to you from half a foot away (as much as you are really really trying). Then someone says your name. HELLO. Or maybe not your name, maybe something in your life that is important to you 'Breast Cancer'. BINGO. It is as if the brain is constantly running this PERL script in the background, filtering out unwanted noise, and flagging it up like a good 'un when the regular expressions make sense.

      Yep, pretty much opposite of what Cocktail Syndrome is supposed to be. One of us is damned confused suffice to say.


      But not only can I not hear what people have to say if I am in a room with a TV on and people are trying to talk. I have to walk out. The high pitches cause physical pain to my auditory system. And I can withstand 100dB plus SPLs. I also have very good hearing for my age. Typical hearing - not great, but in common with 90 percent of others in my demographic.

      But as for the TV - yes, it causes physical discomfort too. And no, not everyone has this. Especially drink/drug addled people because that desensitises the senses. They are fine with it, but that is to be expected. This is best judged in a room full of sober people. But the again, who would be a 'sober person' in a room with a goggle box going ninety to the dozen with Fucking Eastenders going in the background? You would hope their aesthetic sensibilities would be offended before their sensory ones. But no...


  72. Adalat

    No need to see it as a problem.

    Stuart, may I suggest that you don't have to "medicalise" your condition, unless you choose to. I am retired now but I recognize in myself and my early career that I was a classic example of Aspergers Syndrome long before the term was invented. My employers observed that I was better suited to some tasks than others, and I could see that was a fair assessment. I got on with my job and the boss was happy to keep me there. Diagnosing problems and thinking up treatments that might fix them is only a modern habit, decades ago we just worked around individual characteristics and they weren't regarded as problems, just "different strokes for different blokes".

  73. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dude, who hasn't?

    So your big mistake was telling everyone you had been diagnosed with a mental disorder, I strongly advise the tens of thousands of other engineers with Asperger's to keep their collective traps shut. We have people who talk over others, we have people who self stim all the time, we have people with zero social skills, we have keyboard collectors who walk away the moment anything social is mentioned. They are all somewhere between really good and really brilliant engineers. You don't need to accept a tag which will allow psychopathic management to get rid of you.

  74. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Be very careful with your self-identity here

    Back in 2005 I sought answers for why I was struggling at work with social anxiety issues and failing badly with working with people who are vague or evasive, especially managers. Office politics are beyond me, something I always shy away from as much as possible.

    Anyhow, I self-diagnosed Asperger's, and then went to see a specialist clinical psychiatrist who gave me an official diagnosis after just a 1 hour chat and a short conversation with my mother. Chances are, because I believe I was an Aspie, I convinced the psychiatrist by telling him what I wanted him to hear. Big mistake.

    This dx coloured my life, thinking and behaviour for several years, until, deeply unhappy, I saw a good and competent psychologist, who (after 16 candid sessions) decided that I might have some mild presence on the spectrum (as all men do to some extent) but I was almost certainly not an Aspie.

    My message is this: just be happy with yourself and your strengths and weaknesses. Don't try to label who you are or what you are for no good reason.

    Some people might benefit from dx, but think - do you really want an Asperger's diagnosis on your medical records, twisting everything you report to your GP? Every symptom of an illness will be instantly disregarded as just "probably something to do with Asperger's", rather than taken seriously and investigated properly.

    Would you be comfortable the next time you get a new job and (after already accepting an offer and resigning from your current post) they ask for a report from the docs? Most employers are definitely not Aspie friendly...

  75. Hairy Airey

    Great article

    I was diagnosed with Asperger's in 2010 - didn't stop Cancer Research UK sacking me on the grounds that I "would not fit in" (for offences so petty I won't repeat them here).

    Attitudes really have to change - I've been told by a Court of Appeal Judge "you're not disabled, you should be pleased you're not disabled".

    Anyone who is interested can

  76. 2Fat2Bald

    Is it just me, or is asking an Aspergers sufferer to stand up in front of all his colleagues and tell that so grossly stupid that in this day and age it would be hard not to see it as workplace bullying?

  77. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You know, I've just found out who I really am after reading this article? Not just me though: generations of my family going back to at least my Great Grandmother, all suffered from this (in various degrees).

    All miss diagnosed, or ignored, or skipped over. For generations, not just years. But in all cases lifetimes.

    Except myself. I can not thank Stuart Burns enough for this article. I've spent the last week going over so many things with my life (but this time with a little more understanding and focus. Not my usual blank mental regurgitation, reworkings and reanalyses). I'm described by people in my work as having 'Moss moments' - periods of technobable that leave all around me struck silent in their lack of understanding. I go further than they wish an answer for, and embellish it with source details, history's, alternative solutions should the first fix fail and on and on and on. It now seems I have a 'Moss life'. But let me stress this though: it is NOT a bad thing to be like this. It's just different. I'm a technical go-to guy for countless issues daily. As will a lot of fellow sufferers.

    But anyone who's been in the playground knows that difference is often picked on - purely because it's different. But were adults, right? We can acknowledge the difference, and work with it.

    I sincerely hope so. Because tomorrow I have various people to be let in on one of my darkest secrets, even though it's only a week old. I also need to tell the family I have left. Why? Because this is an answer to a good chunk of who I am. There's also other important issues. Serious life decisions I made concerning having a family of my own. I couldn't see passing on my previously un-named condition to someone I would love. In this case the generational buck stops with me.

    The other members of my family that probably had this (or relics of it, maybe even just faint echos) are all gone now. Including my closest relative's. None knew of it. How could they? In pre-internet days information like this was just not available. In days gone by you went to the Doctor with symptoms like this they put you on Valium. One of my closest relatives was on that for most of their adult life.

    I don't yet have a solution. I've spent my entire life gazing at the human race - purely from an observational view point, seeing little to connect myself to it. There's a reason one of the main websites is called Wrong Planet. So I've built a solitary life around myself. Not a total solitary life mind you, but mostly so. Now I might be able to cobble together a few more answers. As a sufferer myself I've learned a few tricks in responses, interest and shutting up when needed to (based on a continual roll of experiences both bad and good). I think all sufferers do. I will probably never find all my answers, but at least I now know in which direction to point so I can at least find the correct questions to ask.

    Thank you again Stuart. I'm sorry I posted anonymously. My work can not - at present - learn of this, at least until I myself have learned of it. I will troop along to my Doctor for a better handle on it too.

  78. cortland

    Hah! Imagine being told about it at age 67.

    Not Alzheimer's is GREAT news, and by this time, age has pretty much smoothed out the kinks, so to speak. I've often enjoyed being the person in a room full of panic who knew where to apply the sledgehammer.

    But we should probably dump the stereotypes; I am convinced there are MANY more ways of thinking than we make room for.


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