Feeds

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 …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.

Page:

Coat

Hmmm interesing....

...how do you score on the artistic scale?

7
1
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.

3
11

Re: Enlightening Article but

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

3
0

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:

http://www.smh.com.au/national/psychiatry-bible-blamed-for-manufacturing-a-host-of-ghosts-in-complex-inner-human-world-20131008-2v65c.html

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

http://www.spring.org.uk/2007/03/why-its-ok-to-be-depressed-sometimes.php

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
1
Anonymous Coward

Re: Enlightening Article but

There is no such thing as too much heavy rock.

2
0
Bronze badge

thanks for sharing

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

12
0

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.

37
2

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.

21
0
Bronze badge

Re: Noise pollution

I found noise cancelling headphones are your friend here.

Even on calls, I use the softphone with them.

0
0

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.

6
0
Bronze badge

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.

11
0
Silver badge

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

1
0
Silver badge

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.

3
0

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!

2
0
Silver badge

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.

9
5
Bronze badge

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.

3
0
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.

9
0
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
0

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.

1
0

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 autism.org.uk were lectures, not self-help groups.

1
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Noise pollution

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

http://scienceblogs.com/neurophilosophy/2009/11/13/dyslexia-cocktail-party-effect/

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!

0
0

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
0

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.

0
0
Bronze badge
Meh

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.

0
0
Devil

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

1
0
Bronze badge

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.

0
0
Bronze badge

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
0
Bronze badge

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.

0
0

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.

1
0
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...)

1
0

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!!!

/rant

4
0
Anonymous Coward

Take the test and answer honestly

http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/9.12/aqtest.html

0
0
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?

0
0
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 :

http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/9.12/aqtest.html

0
0
Silver badge
Pint

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.

0
0
Silver badge

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.

0
0
Bronze badge

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.'

0
0
Silver badge
Coat

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?

0
0
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.

19
0
Silver badge

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".

4
2

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.

0
0
Bronze badge
Alien

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: http://my.opera.com/Weatherlawyer/blog/

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.

TL,DR:

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

0
1
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% :)

9
0
Bronze badge

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!.

1
0
Silver badge

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.

2
0
Silver badge

Re: Nice read

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

2
0
Bronze badge

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.

1
0
Bronze 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.

1
0

Multitasking

"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?

4
0

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.

JT

3
0

Page:

This topic is closed for new posts.