ASD Traits We Could All Use
While many treatment protocols and supports for individuals with ASD are geared to reduce symptoms–to help them ‘fit in’ to society–it is important to note that there are many ASD symptoms that could (and should) be adopted by the larger society.
Listed below are some general traits that have been associated with ASD and that we could all benefit from adopting in our working and personal lives.
While most of us recognize the importance of honesty, we often fail to apply it to our everyday lives. In our previous blog where we reviewed the fictional case of Simon, Simon’s response to his supervisor was genuine and to the point. Although he may have been able to word his commentary a little more gently, the message was technically what the supervisor was asking for.
We often couch our wording in subtle references and tangential concepts with intention. Sometimes, our intention is to avoid confrontation, or to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. Imagine a world in which you could say exactly what was on your mind without reprisals!
In Simon’s case, he felt he was giving the information that his supervisor was looking for and he was confused as to why that might be perceived of as ‘wrong’. In truth, his supervisor was actually pleased to have clear and direct feedback from Simon and would prefer her employee’s to be more direct. Likewise, with some brief education, Simon’s management team and coworkers were more comfortable giving Simon direct feedback. For example: “Hey Simon, you’ve told me about the embalming procedures of the ancient Egyptians on a number of occasions, are you OK if we change the topic?”
Individuals with an ASD are often seen as being concrete thinkers (e.g., black or white). While we often view this type of thinking as being somehow lesser or restrictive, this dichotomy can be helpful in resolving certain moral or ethical dilemmas. Most of us tend to get into trouble when we begin to move the ethical anchors in certain directions (e.g., “I know that we’re not supposed to leave early, but today is different because…” etc.). The Asperger need for clear and concise rule-following removes the burden of slippery decision-making.
The need for rule-following is particularly pertinent in the case of safety issues. For example, one of my clients was having difficulty keeping up with his quotas because he was following the safety procedures to the letter each and every day. His co-workers, in contrast, were bypassing many of the “unnecessary” safety steps and taking a number of shortcuts. Simon’s strict adherence to the safety protocols was admittedly slowing him down relative to his peers, but also helped contribute to his outstanding safety record.
While we often place a high value to team-building and camaraderie, there are times when individuals need to consider the greater good of an employer and/or the safety of others. Individuals with ASD often find themselves in tough situations when they see an important safety issue or inappropriate conduct. Being accused of ‘telling on’ his or her peers for these serious infractions is not necessarily something that concerns them. The individual with ASD places a premium on logic and rule-following and has no qualms pointing out any and all infractions regardless of the potential for social fallout. Unfortunately many employees fail to report these infractions in an effort to protect peers and/or for fear of retribution or dismissal. Sadly there are too many cases of dangerous and possibly fatal mistakes that could have easily been avoided had someone had the courage to report.
So the next time you’re presented with a potential moral or ethical dilemma…ask yourself “what would Simon do?”
The ability to focus on a single topic, to the exclusion competing stimuli is not something that many of us can easily do. Many individuals with ASD, however, have an exceptional ability to focus on minute details and/or on highly esoteric topics. In a world of 140 character comments, Facebook, texts, etc. most of us are having an increasingly challenging time maintaining our focus. While individuals like Simon can still be susceptible to outside distractions like the rest of us, their capacity for intense periods of focus can be remarkable.
Maybe now instead of saying “If you want something done…give it to someone who’s busy” should now read: “If you want something detailed done…give it to a busy ASD employee!”
While the majority of us enjoy some degree of socializing on the job, it is clear that countless work hours are lost every day due to excessive chatting and off-topic conversations. Additionally, as the world moves to more and more social media, many more hours are being lost to covert Facebook, Instagram, etc. chats while on the job. Again, having ASD does not preclude the use of Facebook or participating in office chatting, however, it does traditionally mean that small-talk is very low on the priority for many. Indeed, almost all of the ASD clients I have worked with over the year report small-talk as being not only uninteresting, but often downright painful!
So, if you are an individual on the Autism Spectrum or an employer looking to take advantage of these traits in the workplace, we can help .
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