Software Developers and Asperger's Syndrome

Face it, the vast, vast, vast majority of people are, well, average. If we were all dysfunctional, there’d be no human race.

I could argue that we’re well on the way to not being here anymore, thanks in large part to a lot of people being pretty dysfunctional :P. “Average” and “dysfunctional” are not necessarily disjunct.

This article is probably the best article I’ve ever read on AS. I’ve read a lot of them (I have hyperlexia), and this one doesn’t use a lot of loaded words that make the disorder sound like a death sentence; it just tells it like it is, which I really appreciate.

An organisation exists for people with Asperger Syndrome who work in IT and software engineering. It based in Britain but is willing to work with people from any country. They also run a discussion forum.

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@IamSoOverMe - okay, so you’re a slacker that can’t keep up with the rat race. Good luck with that.

RealityStrikes - In the world of engineering, it might be a rat race, but there is no cheese at the end. With the influx of H1B’s, corporations have managed to dwindle every engineer’s salary and ensure that there will be no rewards, even though the bar gets set higher every year. And I’ve told other people that aren’t engineers that they should be concerned as well. Because the result is that a lot of engineers leave the field and end up taking jobs away from other people in other career fields which in turn creates a surpluss of workers and of course dwindles the salaries of all professions across the board. Not just engineering and computer programming.


Ye should 'ave been a barrister, @IAmSoOverMe!

Being the spouse of an serious IT person that spends any free time with his programming manuals than with his family and a mother of a mildly autistic son, I can completely relate to the observations and confusion that faces the “other half” that cannot decipher anything about their spouse. Oddly enough, it was those Asperger’s Characteristics that made my spouse very attractive. It also didn’t help that the majority of the men on my side of the family are completely brain-dead and Neanderthals! That could have had something to do with it. Hmmmm… it could make someone wonder.


what you describe is classic economics- the law of wages and labor supply. What’s interesting is EVERYONE knows this, but they pretend not to. THAT part of it is very interesting.

For instance, Bill Gates (and other Silicon Valley CEOs ) testified before Congress (under oath?) that he cannot find the engineers he needs and immigration should be unlimited for that reason. He knew what was doing, and so did every member of Congress. He wants to flood the labor market to drive down wages, increase workload, decrease benefits, increase profits and , well, get richer.

He knows that’s what he’s doing, the Congressmen listening to him all knew what he was saying, the newspapers know it, the trade journals and magazines know it, the think tanks and people who write editorials know it, the managers know it, and the economists know it. But everyone pretends they just don’t see it. It’s as if the fundamental laws of economics went suddenly AWOL . Now, that’s interesting.

What this demonstrates is that entire - how can we describe them, call them segments? - of society, that is, all the entities above, independently recognize a situation in which they’re called on to “play dumb” and they do it.

Apparently, they all see themselves on Gate’s side of the “issue” (if you can call distorting the free market and subsidizing billionaire corporations at the expense of working Americans a “issue”). Furthermore, they are all ready to lie to the American public. The naturalness of their lying implies they consider lying to the American public to be a normal part of their function.

It’s just collusion to an agreed-upon non-reality. The players all implicitly understand what’s going on and know how to act. It’s this society’s rich and powerful people fostering a known and provable lie for the purpose of executing public policy which consolidates wealth and power into their hands while taking it out of the hands of the mass of ordinary people.

That, my friends, is called a ruling class. I hate the sound of those words as much as anyone, but what else can you call it? America is a corptocracy. Maybe it always has been. It certainly is now. But the interesting thing is to see all the ducks line up… that is really eye opening.

So let’s say the “ruling class” does as you wish and blocks immigration. Doesn’t that just make the ruling class bigger? Or do you not care because you are a part of it now?

America is great because of immigration. Just because my family has been here for generations doesn’t mean I’m suddenly better than anyone else.

@IAmSoOverMe: you’re in the wrong job. It could happen to anyone: I happen to be not particularly interested in sports and cars, so I’m not a builder. Neither am I interested in golf, so I’m not an accountant.

valleyprogrammer: if you work for the kind of firm that thinks it can replace good, intelligent people with outsourced / offshore / cheap developers - you’re working for the wrong people. This kind of management-by-the-numbers doesn’t work for software development, which is (ironically enough) a people business.

It’s a little disheartening to hear Aspies being referred to as “these people”, inferring that they are undesirables. Nerds, yes, awkward, yes, frustrating to deal with? Yes! But worth less than the average fully socially functional person? No way. “Different Planet” is right. They just think differently and I think it must be like being dropped on a planet where their particular brand of thought processes is not only unappreciated, but actually undesirable…unless of course your computer is broken.

My son has borderline AS, and although I have never been diagnosed with it, I think I’m probably borderline as well. As my husband says, I research the sh*t out of everything, I lose track of time when I’m coding up a website, am chronically disorganized and socially clueless at heart. I have learned to adapt and have gotten pretty good at “small talk” (although I have little use or patience for it) and I do maintain a good sense of humour. But folks that do have Asperger’s Syndrome are like that oven with the broken thermostat. More often than not, unless they stand over it diligently to keep an eye on it (very exhausting), you’re going to end up with a pan of charcoal chip cookies. Same thing with socializing: unless Aspies monitor their every social move (am I talking too much? Oh no! They’ve stopped talking, search the memory banks for a stand-by quip of benign small talk to break the silence… I think they just told a joke, but it wasn’t funny enough to laugh at…should I laugh anyway to be polite?) they end up burning their social cookies. This translates to unkind words, awkward moments, offended people, and in certain situations, bloody noses and fat lips on the playground. And why? Because their gauge is busted! It’s not that they don’t enjoy people, it’s just that interacting with them is usually stressful and draining. And when you just move from one awkward social interaction to the next, you start to want to avoid the unpleasant feelings associated with it. Computers are nice. Computers are good. Computers don’t judge you or make you feel stupid or undervalued because they are 100% predictable yet infinitely complex. So it doesn’t surprise me that you find a higher percentage of AS in tech-related careers. My 11yr old son is an avid gamer and wants to be a game designer when he grows up. I suspect he’s right on the money.

My Aspie son at 3 (Diagnosed later)got kicked out of a day care after he disasembled the directors computer, to spite the fact that he put it back together, and it still worked. At 8 he took a computer that we had put in his room because it was old and the adults could not figure out how to make it work and programed it to display his digital pictures with software that he borrowed from his brother. He also desighned his own screen saver with pictures too. His school called suspecting that he had some how out smarted a computer baised test at school. All this with parents that have a hard time navigating the internet, and frequently have to have others come fix the computer. I think they might be on to something, or they better be with 1 in 150 children diagnosed with some form of Autism these kids will need jobs that they can be successfull at too.

Wow. This is the first time I’ve heard of Asperger’s. I always knew that I shared some traits with the autistic people, but I never knew there was a specific name for it. I know many people who have some of these same traits, or quirks, and I find those people rather enjoyable and amusing. It just goes to show that it all depends on your point of view. I’m pretty sure that Cthulhu would find us repulsive for our lack of tentacles :wink:

As for IAmSoOverMe, my Asperger’s doesn’t allow me to discern whether we’re dealing with a troll or a genuine specimen of wrong career choice. But I do agree with the first thing he said:
I made a mistake when I was young and thought engineering would be a cool thing to get into.

Yes, you certainly made a mistake. Many young people make a mistake and choose a wrong career just because it’s fashionable at that moment. That’s what happens when you have no one to help you find out what you’re good at and what you would really like. Sadly, most kids never have that sort of help, which is something the educational system should address. I bet they wouldn’t have to dumb down exams if the kids were studying what they really liked :wink:

Oh great Jeff, now every loser is going to self-diagnose themselves with what is in fact a REAL, doctor diagnosed, crippling social disorder.

Most of you people don’t have aspergers, you just are socially inept. If you never develop or practice social skills (much like programming), you tend to be really really bad at it.

Think about it, how many times a day do you get out of your comfort zone and try to speak to people? Or how many times do you think to yourself, Wow, I really need to develop my lingual skills more? Never? I thought as much.

This world is a social world. Deal with it or you will be trampled upon for promotions, etc.

I always find it interesting how predictable people are, and yet how unwilling they are to admit their predictability; it is becoming more and more clear as more psychological research is done that every single human being who has ever lived and ever will suffers from some form of disorder. How could it be otherwise ? Think of what normal is; is sitting at an assembly line doing the same thing 1,000 times a day every day until you die normal or compulsive ? Is managing other people’s behavior and manipulating them to meet your goals normal or controlling ? Is consistently underachieving in life on a professional level, because your only concern is being popular with your buddies; is this normal or a sign of immaturity ? (this more often than not is a trait of people who desperately want to consider themselves ‘normal’).

If ‘normal’ were in fact the norm, we would have likely never even developed written language; think of how abnormal that must have seemed at the time, to codify our sounds into symbols; the person who invented this was likely very odd (they would have also likely been programmers in modern times). Everyone has a disorder, that disorder provides them certain strengths to make up for their weaknesses, thus everyone can basically be categorized based upon the disorder they suffer from. If it were not for disorders, there would be no specialization, and without specialization, in a world of averages, we would be flinging dung at each other and hunting with rocks because nobody would ever do anything strange or unpredictable. There would be no inventors, no philosophers, no artists, no assembly line workers, no engineers or builders. An inability to socialise with others will lead one to pursue technical goals, an inability to understand even basic physics may lead one to pursue goals relating to social order, an inability to do either will often lead to abstract thinking. Our strengths are really just a sanctuary from our weaknesses, life is a test of trial and error.

This of course will be met by open hostility by people who have an inherent need to fit in, and thus to label themselves normal. Don’t worry, your disguise works quite well, and your sadistic tendencies towards people who you secretly admire should help alleviate some of your confusion as to where you fit into the world (as fitting in will be the primary preoccupation of your life).

Well! I just surfed here from Google on “Bill Gates Aspeger”, and it’s a fascinating and heartening discussion, as my son was (last week) diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. I’m thinking, based on this article and others like it, of steering my son toward a career in software or engineering…

about an an Aspergers math genius it if you can! Best to all-

As for the online tests and traits - be careful as I would never imagine how one could see himself fulfilling the criteria if not experiencing myself. One could be afraid of having almost any illness and syndrom when first reading symptoms!

It’s like the “healthy man entering a library and coming out as the sickest person in recorded history”…

So I would stress 1st Jeff’s comment that most people are (although unique) normal. Also … all these are not black&white criteria and each person has a certain level in any of them … not everyone can be a class entertainer; one person can have many interests but not much into any of them, another is more focused, it’s normal, we’re not copies.

I thought about explicitly acknowledging the possible counter-arguments here, but finally decided to keep this solely positive

Have a nice day and don’t take anything (not even computers or job) too seriously!

As an author who writes books on Asperger’s syndrome, the world of programming, and IT in general is often a great place for someone with Asperger’s or high functioning autism to hang out. Many programmers need solitude and quite and work alone. These are ideal conditions for someone with Asperger’s who often has poor social skills and may have sensitivities to light, noise etc. A bustling, busy office is not a good environment for a very structured person with Asperger’s syndrome.
You can sign up for a free Asperger’s Syndrome newsletter on the site, which provides a lot of help for those adults with Asperger’s seeing help with jobs, work environments, relationships, etc. Hope this helps.

It’s very important to remember that Asperger’s is not merely a term for someone who is “odd,” “eccentric,” or “socially awkward.” This is a serious and very real medical condition that does not currently have an identified biomarker that would allow for blood testing, etc. In the meantime, we need to provide readers with accurate and complete information. Current diagnosis requires a match with a set of criteria, not merely one characteristic. There are many professionals out there who can pretty accurately diagnose someone through several sessions of in-person assessment and an interview with family members. The following are some of the things that one might look for in diagnosing AS, keeping in mind that the more of these one finds, and the more they interfere with someone’s daily function, the more severely they would score on the spectrum (these are certainly not all true of all AS sufferers, but are a good guideline):

  • difficulty reading and interpreting others’ emotions
  • lack of “theory of mind” (inability to comprehend another’s emotions as separate from their own)
  • difficulty expressing a variety of emotions
  • OCD-like behavior, including repetition, checking, ticks, and obsession over one or a few areas which may dominate career, free-time, and social exchange
  • strong aversion to change, break in routine
  • ADHD-like behavior (difficulty with concentration in the face of outside stimuli)
  • hyper sensitivity to stimuli (noise, lights, tastes, touch, etc.)
  • Tendency towards exceptionally loud or soft speech without evidence of hearing damage
  • lack of intonation, monotone, or robotic-sounding speech
  • lack of facial expression corresponding to mood or speech
  • difficulty maintaining close intimate relationships, lack of friends in childhood or adulthood, history of bullying and/or being bullied, difficulty in maintaining employment for social or hypersensitivity reasons
  • literal interpretation of expressions
  • tendency toward overload of anxiety, leading to angry and sometimes violent outbursts or a total emotional shut-down involving walking away or avoiding confrontation
  • evidence of blood relations with similar characteristics
  • physical awkwardness, clumsiness, lack of accurate sense of spatial relation in environment, personal space
    *lack of ability to adjust to societal norms for behavior, dress, speech (including no ability to moderate self for different social surroundings: i.e. work, friends, school, romantic partner, formal, informal)
  • poor ability to adapt to changes in routine (difficulty in response to emergencies, memory for birthdays or special events, difficulty in adapting to unexpected situations, managing stress with respect to change)
  • extreme directness and succinctness
  • avoidance of social situations due to stress of conforming, bullying
  • often accompanied by depression, panic attacks, generalized anxiety, gastrointestinal disorders, eating disorders
  • tendency toward analytical, dispassionate thinking
  • “book smart” but not “street smart”
  • tendency towards honesty to a fault, innocent personality which may lead to being taken advantage of (attempts to lie or hide truths may be very obvious)

Any person can have one or several of these traits, and that by no means indicates that they have AS. However, when one considers the life of a person with all or many of these characteristics at the same time, it is easy to see how completely debilitating and excruciating AS can be. On the other hand, under the right conditions AS can be a huge asset to both career and managing crisis situations. In some cases this can even be helpful in relationships with others who may be prone to illness or emotional drama, where dispassionate thinking and ordered speech can be helpful. Some AS characteristics are very attractive to prospective partners, who see them as creating stability and predictability, and providing an intellectual partner who is not as likely to cheat or lie. The tendency towards uncontrollable anxiety, lack of empathy, and lack of spatial sense however, can also lead to an abusive and seemingly unpredictable environment once the partner has moved in. AS is not purely bad or purely good - it is simply a different way of being that is managed best when everyone involved is educated. Many people with AS lead fulfilling and happy lives, just like persons with any other medical disorder. It is the interaction with so-called NT (neuro-typical) people that can cause problems on both sides, particularly when neither side is aware of why differences in perception exist.

It is not by any means true that AS is only found in traditional math or science-related fields, but certainly these fields tend to support analytical thinking in an individualized environment with less direct social contact. Remember, there is no stereotype that is true of all AS people, and it is considered a spectrum disorder because some people are highly functional while some are highly impaired. It does not help families for us to contribute to the misinformation out there. As a side note, the difficulties that persons with AS may suffer with authority figures including the law are not yet much spoken of. It can be very hard for people with AS to relate to authority figures in an appropriate way without seeming disrespectful or condescending. They may interpret rules or the law far too literally, leading to infractions. Because of their seeming coldness and calculation, they may appear to have no conscience or to have committed a wrong intentionally, making it difficult to garner sympathy and understanding from judge, jury, boss, or peers. More education of these difficulties is important in the mainstream, particularly among companies and regions where AS and autism are more common.

It may be helpful to know that some medications and behavioral therapies (including couples techniques) have proven effective for some people with AS to help them adapt to their environment and manage medical issues, although there is no “cure,” and they may not work for everybody. There is much to be learned in this area, but the more we talk about it openly, the better. I myself do not write in as an expert, but as an NT woman married to man with AS (who yes, is a computer programmer). I took the time out because I am just tired of reading so many ill-informed blogs while I research for our own family.