According to DSM-5 and many specialists, Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that impacts communication, social interactions, and behavior. Also referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Autism encompasses various symptoms with differing severity levels.
Level 1 Autism or (formally) Asperger’s is considered an official disorder by both DSM-5 and most experts. People living with Level 1 Autism frequently face social difficulties as well as difficulties communicating nonverbally. Their interests often run deep with intense routines that make for rigid schedules; yet most possess good language abilities with average to above-average intelligence quotient. Each person with autism will present different symptoms and abilities unique to themselves.
Autistic individuals possess many assets, which include:
- Strong attention to detail
- Long-term memory capabilities.
- Gained a unique perspective of the world.
- Ability to focus intensely on tasks
- Creative problem-solving skills
- Communication that emphasizes honesty and directness
- Passion and dedication for one’s interests or hobbies
Autism in the workplace
Many companies are beginning to understand and recognize the unique skills and abilities adults with autism bring to the workplace. Some are even creating special initiatives or programs in order to recruit and hire those on the autism spectrum.
Here are a few examples:
- Microsoft’s Autism Hiring Program
- SAP’s Autism at Work Program
- Ernst & Young’s Neurodiversity Program
- JPMorgan Chase Autism at Work Program
- Ford Inclusive Works
Autism: Disorder or superpower?
Autism can be considered a disorder or condition as its impact differs according to individuals, often necessitating specific support and accommodations for optimal well-being. But having Autism does not define who a person is; in fact, many have unique strengths that make them valued assets in both the workplace and beyond.
A common belief among many is that those living with Autism possess unique talents or “superpowers”, often referred to as their strengths or abilities, such as attention to detail, exceptional memory recall or brilliant creativity. Yet it’s important to keep in mind that Autism covers such a diverse spectrum that not all possess these specific attributes – further complicating everyday life for all affected by it.
Deafness can be classified as an impairment to hearing. Although deafness should not be seen as something negative, however; rather it should be seen as simply another experience of life for individuals who experience it differently from hearing people. Many deaf individuals prefer using Deaf with a capital “D” to celebrate cultural identity and community involvement.
Deaf and autistic communities share many similarities; however, each can also be seen as being individualistic in some respects. Here are a few points of comparison between the two communities.
Both communities possess their own culture, language and way of life.
Communication obstacles often hinder members from both communities from engaging with those from hearing/neurotypical backgrounds.
Both communities may experience discrimination or misunderstanding from society as a whole.
Noting the differences, deafness is defined as hearing loss whereas autism refers to neurological conditions and individual experiences within both communities can vary significantly.
So while many adults with Autism (Level 1) do experience difficulties, I see the Autistic community moving in the same direction as the Deaf community. Yes, challenges do exist, but we all have challenges. The Autistic community should be seen as simply different, with different needs and accommodations afforded them.