Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
Businesses IT

Workers On Autism Spectrum Finding Careers In Software Testing 109

rjmarvin writes According to Autism Speaks, about 85% of people who have autism in the United States are currently unemployed or underemployed, but a social enterprise organization called Meticulon is training autistic individuals for highly skilled jobs in software testing. According to Meticulon, autistic people often possess sharp memory and pattern matching skills as well as attention to detail, making them ideal candidates for software testing jobs. Each year's crop of autistic students or Meticulon Consultants is tested and evaluated to develop their MindMap, a unique profile of skills and ideal work environment ultimately used to find these trained software testers an ideal job.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Workers On Autism Spectrum Finding Careers In Software Testing

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward

    And on a related note, the interpersonal skills and social awareness of many IT workers place them squarely within the Autism spectrum.

    • Re:News? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by MerlynEmrys67 ( 583469 ) on Monday December 01, 2014 @04:13PM (#48500511)
      Very true. I worked with a very highly placed software engineer that I swear was deep into the Autism spectrum. He was a fanatic about coffee, hot sauces - and could code around any other two people I knew. He also had no ability to comprehend sarcasm - so don't even try it on him, it wouldn't work. Yes, I agree there are MANY people in the IT field that fall into the Autism spectrum. They can be successful here.
      • My son falls on the autism spectrum and we strongly suspect that I do also. (Asperger's - so we're high functioning.) When we first got the diagnosis, I did a bunch of reading about Asperger's and read how the brains of Aspies see the world in If-Then scenarios. This doesn't work so nicely in social situations which tend to be shades of grey. Something that will be a perfectly find thing to say in one social situation will be totally inappropriate if you tweak the setting just a little bit.

        Computer prog

        • I was told that autism spectrum children generally like to associate with adults rather than people their age, since adults are more predictable and more likely to stick to the rules of human interaction. They also often need to learn human interaction explicitly rather than implicitly.

          • by tepples ( 727027 )

            They also often need to learn human interaction explicitly rather than implicitly.

            Then perhaps the problem is with parental figures who don't know how to teach explicit rules of human interaction. Wiley could probably make a killing on Surviving Asperger's For Dummies.

            • The trouble is that most parents (if they are neurotypical) take the rules of human interaction for granted. They get it and if they have a neurotypical child, that child gets it too. However, their child with Asperger's will often struggle with the simplest of things. For example, with basic hygiene. Growing up I never saw the use of brushing my hair. It just didn't seem important. After all, I don't see my own hair so why should it "look nice"? Brushing my hair also didn't prevent disease like wash

              • by tepples ( 727027 )
                From one Aspie to another, here's how to explain the importance hair hygiene: "Messy hair leaves too much visual entropy above your face. This distracts people talking to you." But then I'm more likely to just wear a hat in a public place.
                • Sadly, this probably wouldn't have worked on young-me as I didn't always look at people when I talked with them. I'd often start talking to my parents and then continue the "conversation" as I walked into another room. Now my son does it to me. Karma in action!

            • by Cederic ( 9623 )

              Books already exist. The problem is knowing you need to read them.

          • My son seems to like associating with people older than him (who are more his intellectual peers) and people who are younger than him (who are more his social/emotional peers). Actually, he'll associate with anyone who is kind to him since he can be starved for friendship.

            That's one misconception about people with Asperger's. Others think they are anti-social, but we're not. We just find social situations complicated and difficult. We long for social contact but when we get it often can't stand it for l

      • If you ever watch any presentations given by lennart poettering, you'd possibly think the same about him. he is technically brilliant, sharp, answers questions accurately without appearing to think and all this in a second language, he can appear to be tactless in answering questions when in reality he is just answering them directly without emotion. Its just sad to see how posters mistreat him in these forums.
      • by Twinbee ( 767046 )

        He also had no ability to comprehend sarcasm

        So if you said "Wow you've got more coffee in that cup that all the lakes in the world combined!", he'd think you were serious?

        • by Cederic ( 9623 )

          He'd more likely look to correct you, as you're clearly wrong.

          Met someone last night that interprets everything so literally that when someone mentioned that they talk to their cat, he got intrigued and wanted to know how they understood what their cat was saying and how the cat knew English.

          In another conversation, someone mentioned visiting a local park at dawn and swimming in the sensory feedback of the birdsong, the light, the warmth as the sun moved onto them. This guy asked, "How deep is it there? Whe

  • Exploiting the vulnerable.

    But to some degree, I guess that describes all jobs.

    • Exploiting people? As in creating possibilities for people to work, to become useful in a society and to give meaning to many where they had little before, to make them feel useful and appreciated, to give them a way to earn a living while at it...

      so 'exploitative', do you wish nobody ever created any businesses and offered jobs in them to others?

      • There is nothing noble about 'creating opportunities to work'. The true test of being exploitative or not is how workers are treated. It could be that the workers are going to be treated very well here. If that's the case, great. But the fact that sufferers of mental disorder are being targeted makes it an issue you have to be careful about.

        • There is nothing more noble that creating opportunities for work for people who cannot create them for themselves. That's literally allowing people to survive on this planet where they couldn't figure out how to survive on their own without the employer.

          The only people who should be careful are socialists/fascists and all types of dictatorial assholes, once they destroy the private sector there will be no jobs and then you'll know what it's like to live without anybody creating any opportunities for you no

    • by jythie ( 914043 )
      Meh, as soon as 'Autism Speaks' is in the mix 'exploiting the vulnerable' becomes a very real concern. Autistic individuals, at least one in activism, tend to think rather poorly of the group since they have a pretty anti-autistic track record that focuses on pretty much everyone's needs except the person with autism.
      • by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Monday December 01, 2014 @05:48PM (#48501393) Homepage

        As the parent of someone with Autism and likely someone who is undiagnosed himself, I hate that group. They blame Autism on vaccines and want to find a "cure" for Autism. My son and I don't have a disease. We don't need to be cured. We need assistance in dealing with the neurotypical (non-Autistic) world. If you were to "cure" every Autistic person, you'd eliminate a lot of people looking at things differently. I'd wager that a lot of the eccentric geniuses throughout history had Autism. Imagine where we'd be without them.

        • As someone diagnosed with Aspergers/ASD, I would rather be rid of this disorder. It has not been kind to my life, and the disadvantages far outweigh any advantages. No soft skills means your other skills are much more difficult to use and made much less useful since you can't interact with others.
          Obviously, vaccines don't cause autism [jennymccar...ycount.com], but I would like a cure to see what it's like to not have a meltdown every other social interaction. It is not a good way to live.

          • I don't think people with Asperger's/Autism need to be cured, but there are definitely folks who would benefit from some sort of treatment (be it medicine or therapy) that would reduce some of the more severs Autism symptoms so they can function in a neurotypical world. There are options out there. (My guess is that I'm further towards the "more functional" end of the spectrum - for lack of a better description. My Asperger's has been a constant challenge, but I've learned a lot of coping strategies over

      • When you have people on the board of directors that have actually seriously contemplated commiting Filicide-Suicide, it's pretty hard to accept Autism Speaks as a serious advocate for the Autistics.

        • by vux984 ( 928602 ) on Monday December 01, 2014 @07:47PM (#48502375)

          When you have people on the board of directors that have actually seriously contemplated commiting Filicide-Suicide

          I'd be more surprised if none of them had contemplated it. I've seen what severe forms of autism can do to a family. Is it really at all a stretch that having a child with special needs, and the pain, frustration, stress, pressure, and emotional drain that puts on everyone would result in people thinking along those lines.

          Sure autism spectrum is often present in geniuses and eccentrics and other people who no doubt the world is richer for having. And it is such broad spectrum that arguably everyone is somewhere on it. But at the other end of the spectrum there is a lot of real misery, and people trapped in unbearable situations, that cannot lead normal lives, that require round the clock care, and assistance with even basic rudimentary functions, even that get violent, creating a financial and emotional drain on caregivers who rarely get adequate support.

          I'd probably contemplate it too.

    • To 'exploit' is not always a bad thing.

      Definition of exploit: To make full use of and derive benefit from (a resource).
      The definition has been perverted to include a negative connotation (e.g. "Exploiting the vulnerable").

      There's nothing wrong with leveraging the particular qualities of an person autism spectrum behaviours. Compensate the person fairly, be mindful (and respectful) of their peculiarities, and everyone wins. The point is to treat people with respect, regardless of differentiation.


      • by lgw ( 121541 )

        I highly recommend Elizabeth Moon's book Speed of Dark [wikipedia.org] which discussed exploiting in both senses of the word in a fictional context, along with the moral questions around a cure for autism. It's well-researched, at least, and sensitive to its topic.

    • Exploiting the vulnerable.

      But to some degree, I guess that describes all jobs.

      It describes all jobs, -from both sides-.
      A good deal is where -both- sides feel that they are taking advantage of the other, but are happy with what they are getting from them.
      And yes, it is possible. It's the Politicians that say it's not... 8-P

  • by jeffb (2.718) ( 1189693 ) on Monday December 01, 2014 @04:25PM (#48500617)

    Folks on the autism spectrum may well be better at testing than folks who aren't.

    But they may also find the repetitive or tedious parts of testing less painful than folks who aren't.

    I know software testing is a big field, encompassing a wide range of activities, and that every job has its monotonous and unrewarding parts. But, from what I've seen -- working with SW development, working with testers, working with kids (and maybe some adults) on the spectrum -- the things that "most of us" find monotonous and tedious are frequently rewarding and reassuring for them.

    To the extent that this is true, it's a terrific win/win/win scenario. Companies get people particularly well-suited for the job. People well-suited for the job get work that they enjoy. People not well-suited for the job don't have to stick with drudgery because "nobody likes to do it but somebody has to".

    • I couldn't disagree more. As the software evolves and the bugs get worse, I can only see the level of frustration increasing. Either the behavior will have changed on purpose or accidentally but either way the AS individual is likely to find this uncomfortable. saying that, regression testing and smoke tests are probably better. Fyi, I know a couple of amazing artists diagnosed who would make awful testers. Individuals are just that I guess.
      • My 5yo grand daughter has mild autism, she was diagnosed because her language skills are in the bottom 10%, very literal, doesn't get metaphors, etc, her other skills are all in the top 10%. Getting her to sit at a desk and concentrate on anything for more than five seconds is an effort. She would make a much better dancer than a tester because she simply can't "think" while sitting still.

        TFA pops up every six months or so, it's a gimmick that relies on a stereotyping of Autism and a poor understanding o
      • by Cederic ( 9623 )

        Leaving the testing aside, raising bug reports is surely a fucking nightmare for them?

        Completing forms is anathama. I can't spell anaethama. Anathaema. Bah. (Quick google). Anathema. Completing forms is anathema to a lot of people on the autism spectrum. Last time I had to complete an expenses form at work I was nearly in tears, had to ask for help from bemused colleagues and went home at lunchtime to get a hug. It shouldn't cause such distress but it does.

  • ISTR a very similar story on /. regarding ASD and s/w QA from a few years ago.

  • by aussie.virologist ( 1429001 ) on Monday December 01, 2014 @04:31PM (#48500683)

    The hard part is finding what that "thing" is and being able to integrate it into your life in a beneficial way.

  • As much as I sympathize with those a bit higher than average on the autism spectrum disorder scale, I know that they shouldn't be allowed anywhere near a dialog box, a set of command line parameters, and please, please don't let them choose the names of anything. Regular programmers who can't bring themselves to use the word "filter" are bad enough.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I have spent some time in software testing. Making sure the Primary Flight Computers of the Boeing 777 worked as expected for example.

    So, you start from the Software Requirements Specification a pile of paper two meters high if you print it out. Then you start designing and writing tests. You have to understand what the system should do and what it should not do. Your tests should be designed to check the system does everything it is designed to do and find out what it does when pushed out of its limits. Et

    • by tnk1 ( 899206 )

      A good question. The difference is probably delivery time and interaction with product owners.

      Autistic individuals can often be very OCD. An autistic individual who finds every problem in the process of coding the actual application may cause delays while they identify and fix every one of them. That compulsion may be too strong for them to overcome. This is a problem, even with some "neurotypical" programmers. You don't want to make the perfect the enemy of the good.

      If the code already exists, the aut

  • The expression "MindMap" already exists and it means something else.

    Not that aspieloontards would ever grok that.

  • by wonkey_monkey ( 2592601 ) on Monday December 01, 2014 @05:18PM (#48501113) Homepage

    Workers On Autism Spectrum...

    Everyone is on the autism spectrum. That's why they call it a spectrum.

    Alternative post: No thanks, I'll wait for the Autism Amiga.

    • I'll wait for the Autism Amiga.

      I misread that at first as "Autism Ninja" - which, now that I think about it, would be kind of awesome.

    • Some of us are just more equal than others.

    • by ignavus ( 213578 )

      Workers On Autism Spectrum...

      Everyone is on the autism spectrum. That's why they call it a spectrum.

      Alternative post: No thanks, I'll wait for the Autism Amiga.

      They call it a spectrum because autistic people vary quite a lot from each other - not because "everyone is on the spectrum". Not everyone is tall, even though everyone has a height. Not everyone is smart, even though everyone has an IQ. Not everyone is autistic, even though everyone can get an AQ ("autism spectrum quotient") test score greater than zero.

  • Elizabeth Moon. Someone's apparently been reading it.

    Good book, by the way.

    • Elizabeth Moon. Someone's apparently been reading it.

      I was drawing parallels to the Emergents' use of the mindrot virus to create "Focus," in A Deepness in the Sky (Vernor Vinge).

  • by Hussman32 ( 751772 ) on Monday December 01, 2014 @06:06PM (#48501573)

    Referring to the following article [nbcbayarea.com], SAP has done this since April of 2014. My understanding is the program has been successful for both the company and the employees.

    I have close friends who have an autistic child, and programs like these give them hope. I admire companies that follow Sun Tzu's philosophy that all people can be useful if you look for their strengths.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    And I hate everything to do with the office environment: the social dynamics and back biting grow really tiresome. I found highly satisfying work as a long haul truck driver. My boss is often at least 500 miles away although he is cool, I can take a nap during the day, and I can listen to audio books. Best of all, no one to bug me. I never thought for a second that I would ever find such a great career. I came from IT and it's in the rear view mirror.

  • .. And this seems to be news every [autismspeaks.org] few [slate.com] months [newscientist.com].

  • by Anonymous Coward

    That charity does NOT have the best intentions in the world and in no way speaks for me, they are in it for the money, nothing more.
    They are pro cure / pro eugenics and wish to develop a pre natal test to wipe autistic/aspie people out.
    We are not broken, we do not need fixing. We most certainly do not need eliminating with such vile technology.

    If you wish to learn about Autism you can try these sites.

    http://www.wrongplanet.net/ [wrongplanet.net] - largest autistic forum on the internet
    http://www.kupo.be/ [www.kupo.be] - irc web chat for

  • My 0.02 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DaMattster ( 977781 ) on Monday December 01, 2014 @08:14PM (#48502555)
    I know that this is off topic but why does underemployment have to be seen as such a negative thing. I am on the spectrum, I have a masters degree in Information Systems, and I drive a truck. I love my job! I don't consider it being underemployed at all. I have precious solitude, books on tape, the ability to take a nap during the day, and a boss who I communicate over text message. The office requires some really strong social skills and savvy personalities. Forget all of that noise and stress. I'm far happier and more successful as a truck driver than I ever was administering windows and unix systems. I gave up trying to get any kind of accommodation from a workplace, instead I chose a career to suite my temperament and interests. The bottom line is that society places too much emphasis on a very saccharine, one dimensional definition of success and happiness. I now see success and happiness as holding down a job I like and living below my means. If I could do my professional live over, I never would've gone to college - I would've gone right to tractor trailer training school. Instead, I got caught up in society's expectation for me to make it big in some bullshit white collar gig and lead a miserable daily life. Yeah sure, I don't make high five figure salary anymore but no amount of toys that that money could buy me gave me any happiness whatsoever. This is just my 0.02 cents but I feel a sense of freedom in the past six months that I've never felt in my adult, professional life. Choose a career based on your temperament, aptitude, and interests - not on how much money you can make or what society expects of you.
  • This doesn't surprise me. Some of the HFA people I've known take naturally to this kind of detail-oriented work that might seem tedious to other people.

    I wonder how much of a market there is for high quality software testers. Based on what I've seen, software vendors care a lot about time-to-market, but not so much about software quality.

    The ones that do care about quality don't test much beyond functional tests, and the QA folks they pay to break their software are marginalized.

  • There's a simple survey to take that tells you if your answers correspond to an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Reading the questions gives you an idea of what ASDs are about, at least for people who are high-functioning: http://psychology-tools.com/au... [psychology-tools.com]

  • Note that: None of this is an excuse to get you out of having to debug your code!!! 8-P


Think of it! With VLSI we can pack 100 ENIACs in 1 sq. cm.!