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Autism might now look good on a resume, depending on how you look at it.
While most employers do not seek out workers who have an autism spectrum disorder, some leading companies are looking for them. Microsoft, for example, is recruiting autistic people for jobs in software engineering and data sciences.
"In order to build the best products for everyone, we need to have a diverse and inclusive workforce across all abilities," Microsoft says on its website. "For example, in the case for autism, we know there is an untapped pool of talent with skills aligned to the work we are doing every day at Microsoft."
Prospective v. Perspective
With advances in medicine and law, providing more understanding about autism and the rights of autistic people, job opportunities are increasing. However, the vast majority of autistic adults are unemployed.
"The number of employment initiatives today for adults with autism is far more than ever before," says Michael Bernick, a California lawyer and former state employment director. But, he says,"They're reaching a very modest number of people."
The problem may be as complex as the condition, which only recently has been broadly defined as "austim spectrum disorder." In the past decade, the autistic spectrum has increased to include Attention Deficit Disorder, Asperger's Syndrome, and Autistic Disorder. The symptoms increase along the spectrum from mild to severe, but share common symptoms such as repetitive behaviors and lack of social connections.
Less May Be More
"These are people who may not be able to pass an initial interview or screen because their social skills might not be 100 percent in line with what's expected in a typical interview, but what amazing talent are we missing as a result?" said Microsoft's Mary Ellen Smith, who announced the company's program on World Autism Day before the United Nations. "There are unique minds being underused and overlooked."
Some very creative people have suffered with autism. Mozart, Lewis Carroll, and Andy Warhol, for example, had autistic symptoms. Actors Dan Aykroid and Darryl Hannah are others.Troy Crumrine, an attorney with the Autism Unveiled Project, is another.
In the American workplace, "neurodiversity" is the catchword for employing people with autism and similar conditions. EY, formerly known as Ernst & Young, has a program to employ people with autism to tap people with different cognitive abilities.
"This program leverages the skills that people with high functioning autism often have: looking at data, dealing with mathematical concepts, attention to detail, the ability to focus over long periods of time, and looking at large bodies of information and spotting anomalies," explains Lori Golden, who led the pilot program.