back to article Working with Asperger's in tech: We're in this together

Some time has passed since my first article on the subject of being an Aspie in the work world. So, I thought it may be time to cover a subject closer to my heart, namely being an Aspie in social settings. Work, after all, isn’t just about what you do – it’s how you interact with people as well. First, let's start with my wife …

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Don't know what drugs the author is on?

All Aspies are different.

Sorry.. Carry on.

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Happy

Numbers and binary

Digressing from the subject a little, I was watching Tatort last night (German TV police procedure series), where there was a man with Asperger's with OCD who was counting things. At one point he was walking along and started counting out 8, 16... And I started saying 32, 64, 128 a fraction of a second before he did. It freaked the hell out of my wife! :-D

Many of the traits you describe seem to apply to me. I've often wondered if I am not on the borderline, but I've never had it checked out.

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Re: Numbers and binary

How many people reading the above then had to say/think '256', to complete the byte. Hmm, how many of those then had to say/think "well, 255" because actual range of values possible in a byte.

Ehhh, relax into what you're good at. That will bother everyone else to differing degrees. The least bothered are going to be better friends!

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Re: Numbers and binary

You know you're aspie when .....

You crash because the powers of 2 you are counting overflow and trigger an exception .

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Re: Numbers and binary

Well, I might have done that, only because I worked in a scientific/engineering field involving binary data. Oh, wait ...

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Re: Numbers and binary

I'm sorry if this disturbs anyone else, but it set me off on..

128, 192, 224, 240, 248, 252, 254, 255

(Helps when working out what the dotted decimal notation should be for a /27 subnet mask for example)

First 3 octets must be .255 (since 3*8=24 < 27) That leaves three bits left for the mask in the fourth octet. Reading the third off the above list gives .224 (which mentally subtracted from 256 gives 32)

Therefore a /27 = 255.255.255.224 (which gives 32 possible variations, and usually 30 useable addresses (in normal usage)). In a NAT situation you can just use all 32 :)

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It's annoying...

Because much of the material on this subject is about the extremes as they present the most 'interesting' and lurid to read / write about, whereas most of us who live day-to-day feeling a little outside the norm get little understanding.

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Re: It's annoying...

If your interested in learning then pick up a copy of "Neuropsychology: The Neural Bases of Mental Function". It's written for medical students, so most people employed in IT deal with far more complex terms on a daily basis.

In essence, there are 9 (currently recognised) areas in the brain (namely motor control, object recognition, spacial processing, attention span, language, memory, executive function, emotion, and artistry) that will function at different levels in any person.

One could postulate that people with better systematising and memory skills are more likely to be drawn to engineering or technical fields as these fields reward people with a better memory and the ability to think logically.

Meanwhile, people with above average motor control and spacial recognition are likely to go into which kind of area? Kind of alarming, when you think about the fact that the mental attributes that you are born with are likely to decide the general course of your entire life.

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ASD

I may be wrong, I often am, and I stopped working in Special Education about 4 years ago, but the idea of Autistic Spectrum Disorder as I had understood it was that there was no distinct dividing line between normal and not normal, or between Asperger and Autism other than of degree.

We're all on the spectrum.

Some of it is also about "Theory of Mind" (Simon Baron-Cohen and Uta Frith et al 1985). The extent to which we understand that another person has a different perspective to our own.

So when my missus says "could you do such and such in a minute", I had to learn that she means "now" and not carry on with what I'm doing. But I am not generally very literal, in fact just the opposite, too often using allegory for explanation. It's just that I had to learn where her emotional tide mark is drawn.

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Anonymous Coward

Meh

I just don't bother socialising (at all) any more. Happy to do my own thing at all times. :)

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Happy

The best thing about 'being on the spectrum' is when you tell an official, whether it be at the council or at british gas or wtf, that you are 'autistic'. No point in saying 'spectrum' as well, that just confuses the thicko NTs and they miss out the 'spectrum' bit anyway, and concentrate on 'autistic'.

Face to face is best, but the phone is good too.

Face to face, they look at you with deep heart felt pity, genuinely feeling sorry for you and feeling better about their shitty lot in life, because at least, you know, they aren't a 'spakker' or 'retard' or 'wtf'. It is hilarious. Sometimes this is compounded by them trying to make out that they don't feel sorry for you which just digs the hole deeper for them.

Even on the phone, you can hear the person's tone go from 'treating you normally' to 'treating me as if I am in a wheelchair'. They do that annoying little voice that is reserved by adults for hard to reach kids - 'ooohhh lit-tul bil-ly is feeling a lit-ul annoyed is he? What shall we do to help lit-tul bil-ly to be hap-py ag-gain? oooh'.

It is fucking comical.

My brain is wired a bit differently you fucktard, I'm not a fucking crip in a wheelchair (apologies to all the crips out there, but they don't like being patronised either, the bloody crips)!

And to add injury to insult, these people are so 'retarded' that their iq is in the negative - thick as shit. Also, ironically, they are without any 'theory of mind'. Not only can they not understand that other people have different thought processes and belief systems, but they can not understand how another human being would be able to understand _their_ thought processes.

So who is the autistic one. I'm there holding all the cards - them, none. I understand and know what they are thinking, but they don't see that at that moment I am reading their mind. There is a paradox in there and I'll just point that out: Autistic people are supposed to be the ones with the inability to pick up on social cues, yet NT people are ten times worse at this. They are totally unable to tell that others are picking up on their social clues in a _massive_ way. I don't use the term 'mind reading' lightly.

My difference is a gift. I'm actually a totally normal fully functioning adult, who has always known he was a bit different, and I've worked hard to be able to socialise and get on with others. How the hell do I tell those people at the party who are jealous of me, because I am lighting up the room with my sheer charisma, making people laugh, having people hang on my every word, that I am actually a 'retard'? I'd probably get punched. I've even had people describe me as suave.

I am also aware that that last paragraph betrays my ASD tendencies, because no NT person would say that. They would feel socially constrained against 'bragging' and being conceited. They would be smacked down by other NTs for doing so, so they don't. See, I understand, not only how my mind works, but also how NTs minds work. And I'm supposed to be the 'retard'?

Ho ho ho. Love it.

The fact I have no social life and no friends, is more a reflection on the majority who go to make up society, than it is at my total ineptness in social situations. I notice everyone angling for the main chance, being matey, always being invited to the party when you can do something for someone, but when you are down, as I have been, people won't piss on you if you were on fire.

This makes me sad. I would love someone to talk to sometimes. I go weeks and months without having a conversation with another human being. I like my own company, but no man is an island, and depression sets in after being in social isolation for years on end. Thoughts of suicide never far away. Doctor says you are lazy and just won't help yourself. No hope for the future at all.

Yet even this is character building. I'm ready to shuffle off this mortal coil any time, but I can't because I have elderly and gravely ill family members. I'm the only one in my family that hasn't had or got cancer. And the best bit, because I am a failed human being in the eyes of society, I have not one other soul on this planet to talk to. Hence my long posts at the reg.

People sometimes ask me if I have thought about getting 'help', and I just laugh and say 'yes', I don't have a problem asking for help. Others have a problem giving it to me though. I hide the extent of my suicidal ideation for fear of being sectioned (fat chance). Not looking for sympathy, just chatting, I'm fine actually.

I take the rough with the smooth baby and get my kicks where I can. And let me tell you, it's worth being on the spectrum just to get that giggle of seeing others react when you tell them you are autistic. NT people really have no sense of self awareness, or the awareness that others can see right through them, effectively reading their mind. They are handicapped really.

I still make terrible mistakes sometimes, but on the whole, I get by. I wish I was clever enough to program computers, but I'm not. I can program, but I'm crap. Not all HFA people are super clever. But this 'thing' that we/you/I have, should make you dig deeper, realise limits/constraints, and find ways to work around/within them. I'm also a bit dyspraxic, but it never stopped me from learning a new instrument, or being a frighteningly good drum programmer. I got no rhythm, but I can program a computer good enough to make you think I am the best drummer in the world, with my own unique sense of timing.

Disability? Nah, Ability, in a big way. I wouldn't change myself for all the tea in china, coz it's not me that needs changing. I see a world where if you are not immediate family, no one gives a flying shit about anyone else. I truly pity human kind, while I wonder at this universe and being a space traveler within it, drinking in every last drop, and being.... alive! The good, the bad, the fugly.

I could go on for hours, but if you read this far, congrats! I'll shut up now. Maybe this post explains a few things.

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PDC

Re the bit about needing someone to talk to, are there no other people on the spectrum in your area?

I live in Bolton, and the PCT there provided 20 group sessions following my diagnosis. After that the group itself decided to meet up every Monday and Saturday in a coffee shop, just so that we can talk to people who are on the same level as us, and not those of lesser ability who just "don't get" us.

Like yourself I only tend to hang on in there for other people. If I didn't have people to care for, and that includes pets, I'd probably have topped myself years ago, even before I got the diagnosis.

I also find it bizarre now that I am more self aware, just how unaware of themselves and others NTs really are. As you say, they think we're the retarded, self centered (hello, that's what autistic means!), ones, yet it is they who are unaware of the thought processes of others, and are the self centered ones.

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If it's not a disability then what next?

The definition of disability (in the Equality Act) is "if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a 'substantial' and 'long-term' negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities" - so although most with it wouldn't consider themselves disabled they are compared to the people that they work with.

As I have said elsewhere until there is a successful test case where someone sacked for their supposed lack of social skills caused because they have Asperger's Syndrome nothing is going to change.

I think its removal from DSM doesn't matter as it's still a condition however it's classified.

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Re: If it's not a disability then what next?

So if you work in science and being "normal" means you aren't as able to do the work.

Does that mean we can't fire people for not being brilliant - because that is the defn of disabled?

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For those who are interested...

... The Autism Spectrum Quotient Test

Not a diagnosis, but definitely interesting.

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Re: For those who are interested...

Hmmmm, scored 16. I don't believe that the spectrum is only one dimensional. I do believe that there are different layers to it that can be smeared and blurred both horizontally and vertically. There are definitely traits that people describe here that I have, others I am completely the opposite of.

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Re: For those who are interested...

Little late to this party, only saw the article link today.

I took that test and scored 38.

Did I pass?

:)

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Re: For those who are interested...

I arrived after you, so you were early :)

I have ADHD, but I took this test and it gave me a 33, so perhaps I have issues? :)

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Norm

The only Norm in reality is that character off that old comedy Cheers!

Mine is the one with the pilsner bottle in the pocket

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Anonymous Coward

Useful

It's a little over two years since the original article and it inspired me to get a diagnosis. It had never previously occurred to me that adult diagnosis was an option even though I'd lived with the possibility of being on the spectrum for almost 20 years.

Whilst getting a referral from my GP was quick and relatively painless, I'm still waiting for an actual appointment, such is the poor state of mental health provision in the UK.

Unless and until I get a diagnosis, I'm studiously avoiding suggesting that I may have Asperger's; that wouldn't feel right.

Thank you for the original article, and for this follow up, which I may need to discuss further with my wife.

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Re: Useful

Just be careful not to make the diagnosis the be all and end all of your existence. It would just satisfy your curiosity and behaviours. Essentially, the diagnosis for me in the long-run (apart from the period of my teens where I cried myself silly to try reject/deny/not accept why I had it) made me more comfortable and confident with myself.

Some people who have been diagnosed use it as a tool to stop making progress and accept they cannot do anything social. I always disbelieve that because of the talks and workshops I've done with a particular local charity who help parents of kids on the spectrum.

My mum always believes everyone has a trait of autism. However big or small. The people diagnosed have multiple traits that have an impact on ones life.

Loving to see the positive vibe in this post forum. It's opposite to what the government are not doing with mental health and special needs in general. Charities are taking too much of the brunt currently to support communities.

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Re: Useful

> Whilst getting a referral from my GP was quick and relatively painless, I'm still waiting for an actual appointment ...

Hang in there.

I went to my GP a while ago and asked for a referral. Excuse me if this reads like you're looking in a mirror, that's how the stories from some other ASD people read to me. Pretty well as long as I can remember, I've always had this feeling of "something isn't right", always been "socially awkward" and had to suffer (as commented by others) "normals" desperately trying to get me to socialise. I've tried a couple of the tests that are around on the net, and even allowing for an element of "knowing what the desired answer is" still scored a long way into ASD territory.

My GP didn't know what the route was, gave me a short questionnaire to fill in, made another appointment where he looked at the results and decided it looked like I was that way, and I heard nothing for months - IIRC it was 6 months or more. Then completely out of the blue I got a letter inviting me to an appointment.

It turns out that my timing was fortuitous - had I asked just a couple of months earlier I'd have been referred to the other side of the country, but my county had just set up it's own adult assessment service and I was one of their first clients (client ? patient ? customer ? what the heck !)

If you get a similar service, you'll probably meet with more than one member of the team which has specialist nurses and clinical psychologists. My clinical psychologist said he found me interesting as a case - I'm not quite sure what to make of that !

During one of the sessions I commented that they probably saw fewer younger people these days given the different attitudes these days to when I was at school. I was surprised to find they still get a lot of 18 year olds who've gone through school and never been diagnosed.

Later, talking to someone else, it was commented that schools have a vested interested in pupils not getting a diagnosis. Once a pupil has a diagnosis of anything, then the school is required to give them appropriate support - but they don't have the funding for that and so it's in the school's interest not to get things diagnosed !

Assuming you get a positive diagnosis, our service offers a number of post-diagnosis sessions to explore what it means, what it means for you, how to understand yourself and how you work (that's darned hard !), and how to explain to others what they can do to help you (such as being more direct, being more specific, and relying less on inference (such as saying "now" rather than "when you get 5 mins") if you want it doing now).

It also qualifies you for assistance from Access to Work. In my case I've got funding for coaching sessions with an outfit called Genius Within.

Depending on your work situation, it can make big differences there. ASD is a recognised disability so all the discrimination laws kick in and your employer has a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments. So if you have a knobhead of a "manager" who persists in relying on inference that you don't get and making it your fault that you don't understand his "simple questions"* then that's no longer a matter of having a knobhead for a boss, it's now a discrimination case in the making if they don't do something about it.

* Eg, how the fook am I supposed to know that when he asks "how many <somethings> do we have ?" that he isn't actually after a number ?

That wasn't the sole reason he's no longer my manager. The fact that I had a couple of months off diagnosed with Stress and Depression and cited him as a significant factor also influenced it, as did the fact that the workforce has halved in size over the last year or so and the people leaving cite him as a factor ! He's now tucked away back in his own corner of the business, and actively kept out of managing the business - and as far as possible, from dealing with customers who also don't like him !

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Re: Useful

Later, talking to someone else, it was commented that schools have a vested interested in pupils not getting a diagnosis. Once a pupil has a diagnosis of anything, then the school is required to give them appropriate support - but they don't have the funding for that and so it's in the school's interest not to get things diagnosed !

Yes. Once upon a time education authorities provided direct support for kids with special needs and for more sever cases schools who got a child's diagnosis agreed could get an extra level of special support. (A "statement" with an agreed description of the need and allocation of resources). Obviously, where a child was showing some kind of special need the school would seek the extra support and funding

This quickly became expensive, partly because of the real degree of need, since the totals of kids with various levels of need soon built up to a significant proportion of the school population. But also certain high profile groups were getting significant amounts of funding for their lobby. Whatever one's view on dyslexia, for example, it was clear that a very high proportion of the special needs funding was going to get very expensive private support for a large number of kids who were not the most highly disabled, often not even the worst readers, since access to a private psychologist or support organisation made a diagnosis much easier to obtain.

A few years ago these kinds of support were massively reduced by restricting the support to "Low Incidence" needs and the schools made responsible for supporting more commonplace diagnoses ("High Incidence") themselves. Specialist central teams were disbanded or made self-financing, which amounted to the same thing.

This seems to have lead to a next stage, in which schools are left with the responsibility and a fixed level of funding ( effectively part of the total pot) to meet virtually all needs themselves.

A diagnosis then becomes a kind of financial straight jacket, with the school being required to make expensive provision for which they have at best been only partly funded.

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Re: Useful

Once my GP found the right person to refer me to it took about 7 weeks to go through 3 assessment appointments to getting the positive outcome. But then I understand that Bolton is 3rd best for provision for adults with autisim, so I guess I won the postcode lottery.

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Re: Useful

Getting the positive diagnosis of Asperger's has been a roller coaster for me over the past 15 month, but in the main it's been a very positive thing. I've endeavoured to use the positive the traits of my autism to combat the more negative traits, and in the main it's working. I still beat myself up when I do revert to type though, as it's so frustrating.

Knowing that you are different, and why, gives you a good starting point to make sense of your life, and I'd recommend that if you feel you are on the spectrum, and that knowing for certain would make a difference, then go and get a diagnosis. Had it turned out that I wasn't on the spectrum I would have been devastated as it would have meant I had some other condition, and would have to start looking for answers elsewhere.

No longer do I make up ridiculous excuses to get out of social events. I once said I'd fallen off my shed whilst re-felting it and had concussion to get out of a formal meal. Now I just explain to people that the stress of thinking about invites might mean that I don't show, and people are in the main understanding. My work colleagues have gone out of their way to involve me in socials since disclosing to them. My employer has also made changes to help me overcome difficulties I had started to have in the workplace. Your mileage may vary of course.

The only negative comment that I remember getting was from my Wing Commander (I'm an Officer in the RAFVR(T)) who said that my access to weapons would have to be reviewed now that I had Asperger's, because that's what those in America who go on shooting sprees have. I calmly pointed out that I'd always "had" Asperger's in the 29 years I've been using weapons, including the 4 when I was appointed the shooting officer for my wing, and that being a stickler for following rules to the letter probably made me safer around weapons than others. Nothing more has been said on that subject.

I do have down days though. The reason I sought a diagnosis is because my relationship was failing, and I still screw up on that score now, but a lot less frequently. It's really hard on my partner, but she is trying her best. I used to think she was the one with issues, and now that I understand theory of mind, I realise that it must be really hard for her to cope with me, and that upsets me.

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Just don't apply for work at Cancer Research UK

They sacked me on the grounds that I "would not fit in"

No employer would treat people the way they treated me - including offering me my job back "for a joke".

The person who started this complained at a Register event that they couldn't get skilled staff. Hardly a surprise if you won't employ someone with Asperger's Syndrome.

http://facebook.com/nodismissalfordisability.

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The Price of Genius - Asperger’s syndrome and Irish History

For those with an interest or a knowledge of Irish history, Michael Fitzgerald has written on this topic in 'Autism and Creativity: Is there a link between autism in men and exceptional ability?' and it is published by Brunner-Routledge.

One might also add the great Irish politician, Robert Stewart (a.k.a. Lord Castlereagh). He represented the United Kingdom at the Congress of Vienna in 1815.

Mark Harkin has a book review here:

http://www.asnz.exofire.net/web_documents/asperger__s_and_irish_history.pdf

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Thank you!

ElReg editors, thank you very much for permitting this topic in your editorial context. To be accepted, to be not stigmatized, is so encouraging for we stricken with mental illness . Stuart, thank you for your courage to tell your story. Your courage is uplifting, exemplary, and inspirational.

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