I definitely believe this article’s point: that there are many autistics in IT. I can remember at one company meeting, they brought in a speaker to teach us how to be better consultants, and one of his points was that it wasn’t just how good our code was, but that we also had to talk to our clients and build relationships with them. We couldn’t just hide in our cubes all day and code. One of my coworkers shouted out, “But that’s why I got into IT!” and we all burst out laughing because for many of us that’s true.
Every time I read about autism, I see myself described. I am a creature of routine. I don’t enjoy interaction, especially with crowds. I’m happiest left alone with my coding and enjoy getting into the details of a program.
Going through some of the criteria this article cites:
* “But the interpersonal interactions that went along with the position — the hearty backslaps from random users, the impromptu meetings — were literally unbearable for Ryno.” – I don’t like being touched. I’ve actually had a fist cocked ready to throw a punch when touched unexpectedly. My grandfather spent years mad at me because I didn’t want to hug my grandmother, accusing me of “disrespecting” her. He never realized that I spent those years not hugging or touching anyone. Even when I’m very comfortable with someone I sometimes don’t want to be touched. There were times I’d have to tell my last girlfriend to stop touching me because it almost hurt me, even her hand was just resting on me. It hurt her when I did that, but I think she came to understand that it truly wasn’t her, but completely something wrong with me. I couldn’t ever figure out what caused it either, it just came on me suddenly.
* “Bob, a database applications programmer who’s been working in high tech for 26 years, has an aptitude for math and logic. And he has what he calls his “strange memory.” If he can’t recall the answer to a question, he can recall exactly, as if in a digital image, where he first saw the answer, down to the page and paragraph and sentence.” – I can occasionally reproduce conversations word for word years after they happened. (But ask me where I just my glasses and I’m screwed.)
* “Bob has some behavior quirks as well: He can become nonverbal when he’s frustrated, and he interprets things literally — he doesn’t read between the lines.” – When emotions are strong, my verbal skills do disappear. And I can be extremely hyperliteral.
* “What Jeremy is not good at is suffering fools in the workplace or dealing with the endless bureaucracy of the modern corporation. If someone is wrong — if their idea just plain won’t work — he says so, simply states the fact. That frankness causes all manner of upset in the office, he’s discovered.” – A conversation with a former boss: “Paul, I get the sense you don’t suffer fools gladly.” “[Name deleted], I don’t suffer fools at all.” And I’m well known for saying exactly what I think, consequences be damned.
* “The Big Interest is a great start to Aspie-spotting.” – Definitely me. I’ve gone through many border-line obsessive interests in my life: first baseball, then science fiction, then politics, and lately its been Catholicism. While each interest never drove out all other interests, I do tend to have one dominate.
* “The Asperger’s brain is interested in things rather than people” – Again, me. I’d often rather read than talk to people. And while talking to people, I get distracted by something I can fiddle rather easily. (Or maybe I’m just rude.)
* Grandin’s “good jobs for nonvisual thinkers,” which she further defines as “those who are good at math, music or facts,” includes computer programming, engineering, inventory control and physics. – Had I not majored in math, I would have into something physics related.
* “I don’t blink. I stare.” – I can’t tell you the number of times I’m sure I’ve offended women because they thought I was staring at them when I wasn’t even consciously aware someone in my line of sight. (Monday night I’m pretty sure I did heading to my car after a stop at a hardware store.)
A few years ago, my mother told me she thought I was slightly autistic. I checked out the symptoms online as found a number of hits for traits I have. When I mentioned this to me now-ex-girlfriend, she agreed it was a strong possibility. As the article linked above points out, a large number of cases are not diagnosed until well into adulthood. But at what point is a possible autism diagnosis just a “cover” for extreme introversion and strong Type-A personality, both of which also describe me?
So, I have no particular interest in finding out if I am truly autistic or just a pain in the ass. (As one of my aunts said, “Paul, when you were little, you were a real pain in the ass.”) I’m going to try to overcome these “flaws” either way. But having tendencies in that direction, I can definitely be sympathetic to those who are autistic.
Today is World Autism Awareness Day. Take a little time to read more about it.