Neurodiversity & The Workforce (Asperger's)

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I have several family members who have autism. It’s a weird disease that encapsulates a spectrum of symptoms and behaviors. Some of those family members can function with the help of drugs, therapy, and the benefit of being born upper-middle-class. Others weren’t so lucky and struggle to stay afloat in a world that doesn’t make sense.

It’s heart-wrenching to watch my adult relatives cope with a condition that cannot be cured, is tough to manage, and is not widely understood.

Beyond the general diagnosis of autism, I have two adult family members who live with Asperger’s Syndrome. One thrives in a regimented academic environment and tells her story in a very honest & personal way. Another family member flounders in his adult life, cannot interact, and struggles to find his identity. The resources haven’t been there for him, and he can barely keep his shit together.

This is a blog that preaches common sense and pragmatism. We don’t jump on bandwagons. We don’t throw labels around. I wonder how you are dealing with neurodiversity in your personal lives and in the workforce?

  • When we talk about ‘cultural fit’ in the interview process, how do we account for those who are more than qualified to do a job but lack the social skills needed to make a compelling case that they can do the job?
  • How do we interact with those in the workforce who cannot communicate in an empathetic way?
  • How do we deal with adults who have problems dealing with social interactions, details, facts, and manners? What happens when an adult at work suddenly tell you that she has Asperger’s Syndrome? Does that change anything?

This topic can go anywhere, really, and I’m ready for the journey. I have family members who flap their hands excessively and cannot make eye-contact with me when they talk. I have adults in my life with Asperger’s who are on the verge of suicide. Now here’s the tricky part: I have worked with both executives & employees at Fortune 500 companies in the late 90s who told me that they had ADD. Then, after 9/11,  they had ADHD and post-traumatic disorder — even though they weren’t at the scene of the attacks. Now there’s a new crop of American employees out there who have Asperger’s Syndrome.

As human beings struggle to define themselves in an increasingly chaotic world, Asperger’s Syndrome becomes an accessible and convenient archetype. Unfortunately, some of these people are simply assholes who look for excuses to avoid taking ownership of their rude & selfish behaviors. Personal growth is tough — and it’s easier to be a victim than to take a deep dive into your psyche and hold yourself accountable. 

I think the workplace needs to bend and flex to accommodate diversity. Neurodiversity is a fact, whether it’s autism or a woman who cannot function without copious amount of coffee in the morning. As much as we expect the workforce to move forward into the 21st century, I believe we should expect adults to seek treatment for medical conditions [& a public option would do wonders for this], get their shit together & deal with their emotional issues, and do right by their fellow human beings.

What do you think?

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