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If you were asked to alphabetize a list of words, most likely you'd do this, right?

Q: apple - pumpkin - log - river - fox - pond
A: apple - fox - log - pond - pumpkin - river
But if you were a second grader on the autism spectrum, maybe you'd do this instead (h/t to Ezra Klein at WaPo):
apple - aelpp
pumpkin - ikmnppu
log - glo
river - eirrv
fox - fox
pond - dnop
Very cool, right? Also cool is a link WonkBlog offered up to go with, about initiatives to find employment for adults with autism in programming and data analysis jobs. More below the fold.

Only about 1/3 of autism-spectrum adults are employed for pay - worse than any racial or ethnic minority group, worse than disabled vets. Really bad. Many have good skills, particularly in the aforementioned data & tech fields, but have difficulty coping with the social and political requirements needed for successful office careers.

Necessity is the mother of invention, it is said. True to that old saying, some autistics' family members are taking some new approaches that are paying off, at least on a small scale. Consider the nonPareil Institute in Dallas, TX, founded by two men who were worried about their own autistic children.

The institute was established in 2010 by Dan Selec and Gary Moore, both parents of children on the autism spectrum, to hire and train autistic adults in software development. Both Selec and Moore’s sons demonstrated unique, remarkable talents where computing and gaming were concerned, but because of their struggles in social settings, risked never being able to apply those skills in paid jobs. "The institute was born out of two parents worrying about their kids," Selec said. "I didn’t just want to start another nonprofit. I wanted to do something practical. I wanted a lifetime solution."
They've got 125 trainees, with 35 who have moved into regular jobs. They've produced several games, and recently entered a contract with Sony to publish games to their PS3 platform. Another recent start-up company, Semperical, is planning to hire those on the autism spectrum as software testers.
Semperical’s competitive advantage is our incredible engineering team.  But due to the unique nature of autism it’s just as likely that a talented candidate be located in Alaska as in Silicon Valley.

We intend to have access to all that are qualified, regardless of their location. So we’ll hire them wherever they are.  We’ll assign projects to them and manage them remotely.

Our unique 3D virtual workplace platform will enable us to draw from that huge and untapped prospective employee pool.  And once we do, our company will benefit by having exclusive access to that group.

I wish them well. It's a great idea, right for our times. Other large tech companies, who probably already have employees on the autism spectrum anyhow, are moving towards more proactive policies in that area. Another interesting development is an internship program, launched earlier this year by mortgage finance giant Freddie Mac, for neurological diversity:
Freddie Mac, a leading mortgage finance company, is partnering with the Autistic Self Advocacy Network to fill four paid internship opportunities. The ASAN-Freddie Mac Internship Program is an opportunity for recent graduates and current students on the autism spectrum to gain work experience and enter the workforce of a leading American company committed to neurological diversity. These internships are full time positions that will last 16 weeks. Successful candidates will need to relocate to the DC metro area and work from Freddie Mac’s headquarters in McLean, Virginia for the duration of the internship opportunity.
Here's hoping they have a work setting that can use the interns' abilities, while not causing trouble due to challenges the autistic face in coping with complex social situations:
At least in the tech industry, change appears to be coming. But it won’t necessarily be easy: despite their valuable skills, there’s no question that autistic adults often struggle to fit into conventional corporate work environments. And while those behind ventures like nonPareil and Specialists Guild are enthused by announcements like SAP’s, they’re also concerned that autistic employees won’t be met with the accommodations they need. "Let’s face it: autism is a disability, and it comes with certain challenges," Selec said. "If the SAPs and Googles and Microsofts want to get involved, I think that’s great. I just hope they have the heart to do it right."
It's a damned shame that people who have the ability to do awesome work are blocked from doing so because they can't cope with social interaction in the typical workplace. How cool that there's people working out other ways to set up virtual workplaces that benefit everyone. Here's hoping that these new programs live up to their win-win potential.

Originally posted to Land of Enchantment on Tue Oct 22, 2013 at 10:43 AM PDT.

Also republished by KosAbility, Kitchen Table Kibitzing, Headwaters, and Parenting on the Autism Spectrum.

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