geekThere’s a misconception that everybody with Asperger’s is into computers. Which isn’t true. I can see where it comes from though.

Think about it: we’re logical. We like patterns and repetition. We’re idea-people. Not people-people. As Simon Baron-Cohen would say, we’re systemizers. We work best with systems. Of the autistic people I know who do work, a decent percentage are in IT or data analysis.

Luckily, companies are starting to take notice of those skills. Specialisterne is a Danish startup that works with companies to employ people with autism. They recently came to the United States. Most of the jobs available are in software testing or data entry. The program is small in the US. But my boyfriend, who used to work for them, tells me it’s expanding.

On the one hand, this is a great thing. On the other, I think it’s short-sighted that we’re getting tracked into this one thing that may or may not be a fit for us. I like fashion. I know autistic people who are into history, politics, and movies. My boyfriend is skilled at accounting. But there doesn’t seem to be much available for him right now.

Nor for me. To be honest I was really fucking insulted when I heard about job supports available in the fashion industry. I could work in the stock room of a store. The stock room. But if I got an appropriate position for my skills, they (meaning the lady who diagnosed me) suggested I get a job coach to come in and “discreetly” see how I’m doing every week.

I don’t see that happening the way things are though. No competitive industry is going to make those allowances for me when they could hire someone else instead. No industry except, maybe, tech. And even that’s a stretch in many places. Our disabilities are seen as outweighing our skills. But given a little bit of patience on an employer’s part I don’t think that’s true.

Now that 1 in 68 children has autism, we need to have a more nuanced public discourse about this disorder that stretches beyond autism=nerd=tech. That way other industries might start to take us seriously as human beings instead of just slow dweebs who don’t belong there.

If we want to be seen as multifaceted, it’s our job to present ourselves that way. We’ve got actresses like Daryl Hannah coming out now. The tide could be turning.

If you have a blog about something other than being autistic, just saying offhand one day “oh and I’m autistic” could do wonders if enough of us did it. Tell your choir or your birdwatching group. Set an example.

Every little bit helps.

 

*Image from the New York Post, about a dubiously promising trend in Wall Street hiring people with computer degrees.