How does Aspergers Syndrome affect work

Asperger's Syndrome as a superpower: Why autistic people can be an asset to the team

Greta Thunberg has it and describes it as “superpower” that sets her apart. She is neither narcissistic nor corruptible, and that is what distinguishes people with Asperger's Syndrome. ASA, as autism is called in psychology, is currently - not least because of its polarizing representative - the focus of public interest. Work psychologist Christa Schirl noticed this during the preparations for the fully booked Autism Conference 2019. “People are interested in this topic”, she explains to us and invites us to talk about autism in professional life and Asperger's Syndrome as a superpower.

What is Asperger's Syndrome and what does ASA mean?

Work psychologist Christa Schirl

Autism is also more of a marginal phenomenon in psychology. "About 0.6 to 1 percent of the population are affected by ASD, the autism spectrum disorder," Christa Schirl begins the conversation. It is all the more surprising that this topic is so popular at the moment. One reason for this, according to the industrial psychologist, could be Greta Thunberg. "She speaks very openly about her Asperger's Syndrome and describes it as superpower that enables her to do what she does," explains the psychologist and immediately clears up a misunderstanding. Not all autism is the same as Asperger's: "Autism comes in many different forms, Asperger's syndrome is just one of them."

Autism at work: is Asperger's Syndrome a superpower?

“Of course, not everyone who has some form of ASS can speak of superpower. There is not a genius behind every affected person. Often autistic people, especially people with Asperger's Syndrome, have an extraordinary talent or a field in which they know an incredible amount and in which they are real experts, ”explains Christa Schirl. The psychologist describes what makes Asperger's Syndrome a superpower, so to speak: “People with this form of ASD clearly follow their minds and are not distracted by emotions or their gut feeling. They are sober, objective, do not allow themselves to be bribed and get to the heart of things with absolute honesty. "

Famous autistic people

ASD is suspected in many famous people. Autistic traits were, among others, Anton Bruckner, Michelangelo and Albert Einstein, as well as the fictional character Spock from Star Trek. The actress Daryl Hannah was diagnosed with autism in childhood.

Overly sensitive senses, sharpened perception: a curse and a blessing in working life

In addition to logic, objectivity and honesty, autistic people have a particularly precise perception that “normal” people cannot even imagine. This special feature can bring advantages in professional life, but it can also be a burden, explains Schirl: “You have to imagine it this way: When you go into the forest, you see the forest. The autistic person sees a hundred thousand leaves. When you hear the rain, the autistic person hears every single drop. When you see the Mona Lisa, you notice the famous smile - the autistic person may even recognize every brushstroke. People with ASD perceive all the details, which can be very stressful for them. "

In which professions are autistic people successful?

Their sharpened perception in combination with often special expert knowledge makes autistic people very successful in quality management or in law, for example, when it comes to interpreting laws very precisely. Christa Schirl mentions other areas: “They can also be very successful in IT, because they are often very detailed, very precise and record things that“ normal ”people do not even notice. These skills are also very much in demand in accounting or controlling. "However, that does not mean that people with ASD automatically have to gain a foothold in number-based professions, adds the psychologist:" There are also very creative autistic people, Bruckner or Bach, if they were any, here would be examples. Geniuses in their field. Autistic people are often very successful in musical, creative things because they have a good imagination. "

How do people with ASD find the right job?

“The professions mentioned above are of course just a few examples,” emphasizes Christa Schirl. As with every human being, the respective interests and talents are individual. “It is important that it is a job in which spontaneity is not required all the time. Many autistic people need routines, variety tends to stress them out. Adapting to new situations can be very stressful for autistic people. "

When looking for a job, autistic people should, on the advice of the psychologist, address: What are the strengths, where are the talents and how can I get involved with them? "It's the same as with any other person: You should communicate your specialty in order to create understanding."

As a point of contact for advice and support, Christa Schirl recommends the Österreichische Autistenhilfe, which assists with the job search and with the integration of autistic people into the work area. From a psychological point of view, she encourages both those affected and companies to be more integrated into professional life: “If an autistic person has found an area in which he is very good, then I would say: Go for it! Companies shouldn't be afraid to hire people with disabilities, on the contrary. "

What do you have to consider when working with autistic people?

While autism used to be a derogatory diagnosis, researchers now speak of it Autism Advance. “They assume that it is not a disease at all, but rather a special feature, an advantage,” explains Christa Schirl. “I think that where there is a pressure of suffering, it is already a disease. This is especially bad when it is not recognized. The boundaries between autistic and normal are fluid. "A diagnosis is the first step to a successful, happy (working) life for autistic people and their fellow human beings, because, according to Schirl:" When working with autistic people, it is particularly important that there is clarity about what is special about people and that being different is seen as an opportunity. "

The same applies here: “A person is a person and not an autistic person. Everyone has their own individual skills and needs, which the employer and the team should know about. ”The occupational psychologist nevertheless explains some“ basic rules ”for working with people with ASD:

Basic rules for working with autistic people

  1. Create enough calm and routine

Autistic people cannot work well in open-plan offices or classrooms - they often cannot stand the buzz of voices due to their overly sensitive senses. “People with ASD need a quiet, dedicated area with little distraction or change. An area in which they can live out their expertise, in which the team knows and appreciates precisely these qualities. "

  1. Pay attention to differences in communication

Communication in people with ASD is very different from "normal" ones. For example, they often find it difficult to keep eye contact - this can be mistakenly interpreted as disinterest or shyness. Autistic people also like to take things literally, adds the psychologist: “They don't understand irony or sarcasm that well. In this respect, autistic people impress with their honesty, which can sometimes be offensive. An autistic person simply says what's up and follows the logic. This can lead to conflicts in the team. Because they know too little about it, many people have difficulties with autistic people. "

  1. Be open and considerate

In order for cooperation with autistic people to work well, openness is particularly important, emphasizes Christa Schirl. Above all, the executives and HR managers have to act as role models and prepare their team accordingly. Schirl recommends: “That works best with concrete examples, like the one with the Mona Lisa: He may not understand your jokes very well, but he recognizes every detail in a picture, which is great! He hears every single raindrop, so you have to make sure that he can work in a focused manner. If someone is talking and music is playing next to them, it is very exhausting for them. If you communicate this in advance and take it into account, then working together in a team can work wonderfully. "

And how do people with Asperger's Syndrome do at work? A victim tells

Photo credits: shutterstock / Ollyy, ALbina Glisic