I see that Temple Grandin is once againgiving commentary about autistics in the workplace. I still think of my own personal struggles in the workplace and my forced retirement at age 51 after years of effort. I was interested to see Grandin's figure of 3% employment among autistics. This is a far cry from Joseph of the natural variation blog's 30% rate of employment among autistics which he neglected to cite a source for and could not do so when I asked him. It is an even further cry from Joseph's assertion based on the UK prevalence study with questionable methodology that found 1% of the adult population in the UK in private households had autism and that they were employed in the same manner as non-handicapped people. I am still curious as to where Grandin gets this figure or where thereare any documentable figures or studies of employment rates among autistics anywhere. I have tried to find them myself on Google. Possibly due to my own ineptitude I was not able to find any. Of course if Grandin's figure is accurate I can take some solace in the fact that at various times in my life I was in the 97th percentile in terms of employability among ASD persons.
Though her call for more autistics in the workplace is commendable, it is dubious that a company will lose out as she says or that autistics as a group (particularly when you look at the entire spectrum) will provide an asset to any company. Though I don't like saying it I believe it is the sad and unpleasant truth.
I'm convinced that this group is one of the most untapped pools poolsof talent we have," said Best Buy's Webteam vice president Cindy Holker
Assuming this statement is true, I wonder where are the examples of all of the autistics who are employed by Best Buy and why we have not heard of them.
People with mild autism or Asperger's syndrome are basically "geeks," Grandin said. They have tremendous skills that can help corporations solve problems, grow sales and program a company's ways to greatness, she said.
If this is true why does not Grandin give any examples besides Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. I believed that I have debunked the non-clinician Grandin's (who likely never met Gates) arguments in my essay undiagnosing Gates, Jefferson and Einstein, which the interested reader can link to from this blog. There is no evidence that Zuckerberg has autism and again this trivializes my horrible disability (and others' disability as well)
Silicon Valley, Hollywood, corporate labs and IT departments are often "loaded" with well-paid individuals who live somewhere on the spectrum of autism, Grandin insisted.
Many just haven't been diagnosed yet, she said, and so don't carry the label of the illness, which is typically characterized by heightened intellect, awkward social skills, black-and-white, literal reasoning, an intolerance of noise and the inability to read facial cues or body language.
Again, no real examples, and one wonders why these people have not been diagnosed. Perhaps it is because they had no real impairments in their life that a legitimately diagnosed individual has had. So, they would not present to a doctor or psychologist for diagnosis and a comparison between these people and someone actually diagnosed with an ASD is likely not apt.
Grandin emphasizes that social skills can be taught to ASD'ers in the workplace. I question the validity of this approach, given the consideration that voice volume and other behavioral quirks might not be easily controlled. Also, it assumes that life is not spontaneous and follows a script where every variable in the workplace can be accounted for. However, I do laud Grandin for acknowledging that social skills are necessary to obtain and maintain employment. This is in stark contrast to the never employed (excepting his patronage government job at the NDC) Ari Ne'eman, who has stated that an autistic's lack of social skills should be completely overlooked in the workplace.
Gradin has assertedthat half of the silicone valley has something you would call Asperger's. I find it hard to believe she has even met one tenth of 1% of the people employed in the Silicone valley so I believe this is rather a stretch.
Though Grandin's accomplishments and the obstacles she had to overcome to obtain them are laudable I do not believe that it is helpful for her to trivialize the employment problems of persons with autism.