Peter Thiel: Asperger’s can be a big advantage in Silicon Valley

Peter Thiel — the PayPal founder, Facebook investor, and bestselling author — hates groupthink.

He avoids hiring MBAs, since he says they tend to be “high extrovert/low conviction people,” a combination of traits that “leads towards extremely herd-like thinking and behavior.”  Similarly, he says that “people end up behaving more lemming-like” in places like San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood, where tons of tech companies are crammed into a .635 square mile area. All that socialization leads to conformity, he argues, preventing people from coming up with original, innovative ideas.

To Thiel, originality is the name of the entrepreneurial game, since it’s the quickest route to gaining a monopoly, as he says Google did with search. From that logic, he argues that a psychological condition usually thought of as a disorder — Asperger’s syndrome — provides a startup advantage.

Introduction to Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

Autism is described as occurring on a spectrum because the symptoms can vary from a complete lack of communication with others to difficulty understanding others’ feelings. This range of symptoms is why the  diagnostic term is referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Spectrum, Autism, Aspergers

Aspergers Syndrome, sometimes also called High-Functioning Autism, falls under the category of Autism Spectrum Disorder. (And yes, this remains the case, no matter what you may have heard about the newly-published DSM-V. But, the DSM-V is the subject of another blog). Aspergers Syndrome is viewed as being on the “mild” end of the spectrum because its symptoms differ in degree and severity from other forms of autism.

Employment with ASD: Embracing Disability Hiring

CHICAGO — Seyfarth Shaw, one of the city’s largest law firms, occupies nine floors of a skyscraper at 131 S. Dearborn St. Shalonda Sanders is responsible for picking up and delivering packages on each of them, plus keeping certain areas clean. It is a job she cherishes.

“I love my co-workers, all of them,” Sanders, 35, said of the 15-member office services team of which she is a part. “Downstairs,” she said, referring to the mail center, “I consider us as one.”

Sanders, who suffered brain damage when she was struck by a car as a child, was hired at Seyfarth about a year ago with the help of Best Buddies Illinois, after many years of trying unsuccessfully to gain paid employment.

The local chapter of the national nonprofit, best known for fostering one-on-one friendships between people with disabilities and a network of volunteers, had recently launched a jobs program to place people with intellectual and developmental disabilities into competitive jobs.

Shalonda Sanders, 35, works in the mailroom delivering letters, documents and FedEx packages to law office employees at Seyfarth Shaw in Chicago. Sanders, who was hit by a car at age 9 and left with brain trauma that slurs her speech and causes some tremors, was placed in the job through Best Buddies. (Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

Shalonda Sanders, 35, works in the mailroom delivering letters, documents and FedEx packages to law office employees at Seyfarth Shaw in Chicago. Sanders, who was hit by a car at age 9 and left with brain trauma that slurs her speech and causes some tremors, was placed in the job through Best Buddies. (Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

The program, one of many attempting to tackle the massive unemployment rate among those with intellectual disabilities, is part of a movement away from what are known as sheltered programs that keep workers with disabilities apart from the mainstream workforce and often pay less than minimum wage. Its challenge is to show companies that tapping into this underused talent pool isn’t just a good thing to do, but good for the bottom line.

Challenging Behaviors and Appropriate Skills in ABA Explained

As I mentioned in my previous blog, there are thousands of published research studies to support the effectiveness of ABA in treating autism and Aspergers. Specifically, ABA seeks to decrease challenging behaviors and increase appropriate skills that are seen in many individuals with autism or Aspergers.

Challenging Behaviors and Appropriate Skills in ABA

To help understand what your ABA therapist seeks to accomplish, let’s cover what these terms mean:

What is Sensory Processing Disorder? Vlog with Autism Community Network

Medical Vlog with ACN

This is the first of a series of Medical vlogs on the topic of Sensory Processing. Adrienne Gaither, OTR, C-SIPT with Autism Community Network, addresses questions on this subject.

What is Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)?

Watch the rest of this medical vlog series:

Ultimate Guide: Understanding High-Functioning Autism & Aspergers Syndrome

 The following is an excerpt taken from the documentary: Coping to Excelling: Solutions for School-age Children Diagnosed with High-Functioning Autism or Aspergers SyndromeMedical reports reveal a profound discovery in the brain of those with High-Functioning Autism. Studies with MRI imaging document an actual physical difference in some areas of the autistic brain verses that of a neuro-typical brain.

Neurological pathways fire differently in Asperger patients than that of a typical brain function. It has become clear that individuals who are diagnosed as High-Functioning Autistic or Aspergers receive their gifts and struggles from a physical medical basis not behavioral, as you may have been pressured to believe. Once we understand exactly how the challenges occur, we can begin to lead our loved ones with Aspergers on the path from coping to excelling.

How Is Autism Diagnosed? (Part One)

So, how is Autism diagnosed?

Psychological therapy

Until recently, autism spectrum disorders (ASD), including Aspergers Syndrome, have been understood as a range of complex neurodevelopment disorders—characterized by social impairments, difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, and restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior.

Changes in definition have been proposed and accepted by different organizations and groups in the United States and other parts of the world. The changes have been discussed in other posts; meanwhile, I will address how autism is diagnosed.

At the present time, a single test to diagnose autism does not exist. We do know that a biological or single genetic marker has not been identified, thus, autism cannot be diagnosed with a blood test or imaging studies. It is rather a diagnosis that is primarily identified by behavioral and developmental differences.

Autism Intervention: Parent Mediated Approaches

There is a new trend in Autism intervention called: Parent Mediated Approaches. Carrie Alvarado (Occupational Therapist with the Autism Community Network) explains how this practice may benefit siblings, parent-child connections, and possibly decrease levels of parental stress or depression.

We divided this up into 3 Vlogs:

1) What are Parent Mediated Approaches?

2) Reasoning Behind the Surge of Parent Mediated Approaches 

3) The Research Supporting Parent Mediated Approaches and its benefits

The Autism Community Network is located in San Antonio, Texas with an emphasis on collaboration with autism service providers, early diagnosis, and providing services to underserved young children and their families.

This Medical Vlog series is graciously underwritten by: 

 

Should I tell my newly diagnosed child they have Aspergers Syndrome?

I get asked this question a lot at speaking engagements. Being an adult with Aspergers Syndrome, I feel that there will come a point when a parent will decide on whether they should tell their child if they have Aspergers or not. Some parents may want to hesitate on telling their child that they have Aspergers because they feel it might have negative repercussions on their child’s feelings.

Aspergers SyndromeOther parents will want to tell their child because they feel that Aspergers shouldn’t be kept a secret, and their child has the right to know about their gift.

In my opinion, I feel a parent should tell their child that they have Aspergers. My parents told me that I have Aspergers, and I wasn’t bothered one bit!

In fact, I encourage every parent who reads this to tell their child about Aspergers Syndrome, and what it is. More than likely they already know they’re ‘different,’ and knowing their diagnosis will mean they can better understand themselves.

My experience throughout the school-age years is that Aspergers is a big benefit, since I find socialization to be a hindrance to my school work – which should be the primary goal during that time. I would tell parents to think of Aspergers as a positive thing, and a gift that the whole family should cherish the remainder of their lives.

By Samuel Allen

Is Higher Education Ready to Support Students with Asperger’s? Part 3

Independent Living

In 2013, to fulfill the requirements of my doctoral degree, I surveyed disability service professionals at 578 degree-granting, four-year public institutions of higher education. The survey was designed to determine the current readiness of higher education to support the academic, social and communication, and independent living needs of college students diagnosed with Asperger’s Disorder.

College Students with Asperger’s: Academic and Campus Accommodations Necessary

 

40% of the institutions surveyed (230 colleges), participated in the survey. The survey was designed around the Benchmarks of Effective Supports for College Students with Asperger’s Disorder (Ellison, Clark, Cunningham, & Hansen, 2012), a checklist of efforts determined by experts as integral to effective college supports for this student population.

The 2013 study demonstrated college students with Asperger’s Disorder required specialized supports, and that disability services available traditionally on campus to this population were generally ineffective. It explored, in part, whether or not colleges had specialized supports for this student population outside of traditional disability services.

This article is the third in a three-part series that reports the outcomes of that research. Read Part 1 and Part 2.