Some companies see opportunity in autism

“I am fairly convinced that America is not really aware of the pending tsunami of burden that the current autistic rate will put on our workforce and adult support services in the next 10 to 20 years,” said one father of a 14-year-old autistic son.

He’s not alone in his concerns. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 68 American children lie along the Autism spectrum. That number is far higher than in years past, likely reflecting greater awareness of the condition and changing diagnostic standards. Still, the overall number of autistic children has increased. And autism is not simply a disorder of childhood — it follows people into adulthood and into the workforce.

Some companies see this as an opportunity. German software giant SAP wants to have 1 percent of its workforce be autistic by the year 2020. This is not altruism. The company believes autistic employees will benefit their business, according to The Wall Street Journal. According to Jose Valasco, head of the autism initiative for SAP, people with autism have characteristics that SAP needs in software testers or debuggers.

To keep reading, click here: Some companies see opportunity in Autism

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  1. Suzanne, there’s no link at the end. Oopsie!

    This is a really interesting perspective. And of course, there’s a whole spectrum of autism, so everyday functioning can be much higher than people think. Obviously there will be autistic people who can’t work, but for those who can, it’s nice to know that at least one employer (and hopefully more) are welcoming them.

  2. This is over 7 years old, but it is somewhat related to this topic.

    In a February 2007 blogpost ( a SEO (Search Engine Optimizer — an online marketing speciality) explains how he wrote an article about how looking at diseases that society tends to view as disabilites as giving people advantages (“superhuman powers” is how he put it) went viral. Thus, the site he posted it on bounced up in search engine rankings.

    Regardless, I like his perspective on how people with “disabilities” can contribute to society.

    Note that I believe that the article “8 Diseases That Give You Superhuman Powers” appears to no longer be available.

    • It’s too bad that article isn’t available, because it’s certainly a very interesting idea. I would have loved to have read it.

  3. I think it’s going to take a really big culture shift. Right now there is so much bullying and bad treatment of workers. The theory is that with unemployment so high workers have to put up with being treated badly and overworked. Autistic workers will not respond well to management by fear. I think it will be at least a whole generation, maybe two, before autistic workers are accepted. When the brothers and sisters and cousins of autistic kids are in management, then change will happen.

    • It will have to be a gradual change. I’m totally bothered by trends of some companies to focus so much on “culture” that it means that everyone who works there needs to be like the boss. No! Everyone needs to be able to do the job.

  4. Years ago I read that a manufacturer of jet engines hired blind people to inspect turbine blades. Seems that many blind people have acutely sensitive touch and are able to feel tiny defects in turbine blades far better than sighted people.

    Some deaf people might make outstanding visual inspectors because they will not be distracted by noise.

    A couple of time I have visited Goodwill Industries and was very happy to see what good work the employees there were doing. Encouraged by this, my company placed some high-volume work there with excellent results.