Asperger’s Syndrome Guide for Employers

Barbara Bissonnette, Principal
Forward Motion Coaching

Asperger’s Syndrome is a mild form of autism that affects interpersonal communication and the ability to organize information and prioritize tasks. The individual may make blunt or inappropriate comments, and have difficulty multitasking and seeing the big picture. He or she may be unusually distracted by noise, smells or physical sensations. Each individual is unique and does not share all of the traits of Asperger’s Syndrome or experience then to the same degree.

While these individuals face a number of challenges, Asperger’s Syndrome also confers specific strengths that make them particularly well suited to jobs requiring attention to detail and prolonged focus. Many have above-average intelligence and enter the workforce with advanced or multiple college degrees. Although represented in all types of jobs and careers, the fields of computer technology, academic and scientific research, writing, engineering, technical documentation, and academia make particularly good use of their logic and analytical skills.

The business community is beginning to recognize that people with Asperger’s Syndrome also confers specific strengths that make them particularly well suited to jobs requiring attention to detail and prolonged focus. Many have above-average intelligence and enter the workforce with advanced or multiple college degrees.

Although represented in all types of jobs and careers, the fields of computer technology, academic and scientific research, writing, engineering, technical documentation, and academia make particularly good use of their logic and analytical skills.

The business community is beginning to recognize that people with Asperger’s Syndrome can be terrific assets when they are in the right jobs, and receive the needed supports. Specialisterne is a software testing company, founded in Denmark, that specifically hires individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome and high-functioning autism. Its clients include Microsoft and Oracle. According to founder Thorkil Sonne, these individuals make superior software testers because, “… they are methodical and exhibit great attention to detail,” and have “motivation, focus, persistence, precision and ability to follow instructions” (Sonne in Saran 2008).

Specialisterne is expanding operations throughout Europe, and in 2012 entered the United States. Thorkil Sonne established The Specialist People Foundation with the goal of creating one million jobs around the world for “specialist people” with autism and similar challenges. (To learn more, visit www.specialisterne.com.) Currently, Specialisterne has operations in Austria, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Poland, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. Plans are underway for Canada, Germany, Singapore, Spain, and Turkey. Other organizations in the United States have adapted this model, including Aspiritech www.aspiritech.org); and Semperical (www.semperical.com).

The strengths of individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome include:

      • Attention to detail and sustained concentration.
        Benefits: ability to spot errors; accuracy; not distracted from the task at hand.
      • Excellent long-term memory.
        Benefits: recall facts and details others have forgotten.
      • Tolerance of repetition and routine.
        Benefits: perform the same tasks without getting bored or burned out.
      • Strong logic and analytic skills.
        Benefits: ability to see patterns/connections in data; objective view of the facts.
      • Vast knowledge of specialized fields.
        Benefits: develop in-depth knowledge and expertise.
      • Creative thinking.
        Benefits: different way of processing information can lead to novel solutions.
      • Perseverance.
        Benefits: stick with a job until it is done.
      • Honesty and loyalty.
        Benefits: not afraid to tell the truth; stay with an employer long term.