This article examines a promising new model for integrating moderately functioning autistic adults into tech business. I have mixed feelings about it. On one hand, anything that helps people on the spectrum to have richer lives, to be independent, and to feel good about themselves, is a good thing. On the other hand, pigeonholing people on the spectrum because of our supernormal attention to detail and making robots out of us is not a good thing.
I have known people on the spectrum who are artists, musicians, scientists, doctors, engineers, mathematicians, auto mechanics, veterinarians, carpenters, software analysts, and practically anything else you can think of that requires intense focus and attention to detail.
In my career as a pediatrician I have met autistic children who were raised by intelligent caring parents who had the faith to somehow make it through the awful autistic childhood (trust me, I’ve been there, both myself and with my son) and out the other side, to meet their brilliant, quirky child-now-become-adult. It’s quite a ride. It seems to me that many of the autistic adults who end up low-functioning may not have been fortunate in their choice of parents. Often these kids end up in foster care or even residential placement. There is little hope for them there, as they receive custodial care at best. At worst I have seen autistic girls sexually abused in residential care. This destroys them forever, for the autistic mind often operates in good/bad, black/white, and abuse destroys their faith in other human beings.
I hope that as people on the spectrum become more visible in society, we will continue to be seen as an asset and not a liability.