Autism Acceptance Week. As a part of my own expanded awareness this week, I came upon the graphic below which provides a useful illustration of the multidimensional “spectrum” of “Autistic Spectrum Disorder” (ASD). This richer model more clearly articulates how someone “on the spectrum” may have impairments in an area, but none in most others. In assessing how someone with ASD might be quite successfully integrated in a team or organisation, understanding this nuance of how the disorder presents itself and how the particular individual is affected is critical.

The Sunday Times article “GCHQ: meet the spooks with very special skills” shares the case study of an the GCHQ which went a step further of not just embracing neurodiversity, but seeing some of those impairments as actual advantages in certain types of tasks:

  • Hundreds of people with autism and dyslexia work at the government’s eavesdropping post. Why do they make such good spooks?…Although GCHQ draws its employees from a wide cross-section of society, a handful of these ‘unsmart casuals’ are very smart indeed – and not in the conventional way. GCHQ needs brains that are wired differently.”
  • “Harry’s habit is the manifestation of his dyspraxia, which is deemed a ‘strength’ within GCHQ’s ‘neuro-diversity’ programme – and not a ‘condition’, as it is described in the outside world. Dyspraxia is regarded as a developmental coordination disorder, which affects the brain’s ability to process information such as language, thought and perception, but does not impact on a person’s intelligence. He set out to solve a problem, which his boss said was ‘not logically achievable’. He clutched his 10 coloured pens and notepad and began ‘scribbling and doodling’ until he cracked it. Ultimately, it earned him one of GCHQ’s top merit awards.”

The unit manager “Jo” describes “the essence of human potential and the wonderful plasticity of the human brain.”

Autism spectrum