Friday 28 October 2011

Silly Questions and Going Up Mountains

What a busy week this has been at Autism Works, with software testing work we have been doing for contracts we have had coming in, as well as working on a major funding bid. Though 'busy' can sound like hard work, don't confuse it with the fun it can bring.

In among the software testing work that our Test Analysts are progressing with, which is done in a language that makes as much sense to me as Klingon, I have been doing some preparation work for some training that I am doing for the Connexions service next week. Preparation work, especially putting together Powerpoint presentations, I often find fun. In relation to the subject that I am developing the training around, something I found very enjoyable was looking for questions asked at job interviews that can be open to literal interpretation by a candidate with Asperger's Syndrome, or interview questions that either don't make sense or are just plain stupid, to give Connexions staff an idea of the difficulties that a candidate with Asperger's Syndrome can have during job interviews, before exploring reasonable adjustments.

When giving a seminar with Tony Attwood back in 2007, something that I remember him talking about was how the best comedy was the world seen through different eyes, including Asperger eyes. In the case of Asperger's Syndrome though, comedy can also be the result of doing what we are told quite literally or just through being comfortable with the truth. This can also apply to job interview questions. A friend of mine also diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome said that a difficulty she experienced at job interviews was being able to form a 'dishonest' answer, particularly when asked 'why do you want to work for us?'. The standard answer she said that she would give was along the lines of 'your company has a lot of drive and potential for growth', while a more honest answer she would give would be 'because I have been made redundant and need the money'!  

The Autumn 2011 edition of The Autism File includes an in depth interview with me in which I talk about how open or abstract questions can present problems for candidates with Asperger's Syndrome as well as how employers need to be flexible within their recruitment procedures to capture the unique skills and talent that candidates with Asperger's Syndrome can bring. In the interview I also talk about the development of Autism Works, including what we have managed to achieve so far in our relatively short history as well as what we hope to achieve. 

Interwoven with this interview is a feature article I have written about my experiences of trekking up mountains, focusing particularly on how I have found experience of constantly changing weather and conditions helpful in coping with change. Change in various shapes and forms is hard for many people with Asperger's Syndrome to cope with, including in working environments. What we must also realise though is that when, faced with change, is that before we can learn new ways we need to unlearn old ways. As much change occurs as a result of circumstances both social and natural, one cannot control it. Just by changing our relationship with it though, including how we think about it, can enable us to see the meaningfulness in it, rather than becoming stressed or anxious through resisting it. 

At Autism Works, we have had some really positive feedback about the company from this interview. I have been asked to do some more writing for future editions of The Autism File which should bring Autism Works more positive publicity. In the meantime though, to keep up to date with developments at Autism Works, stay tuned to this blog.  

Friday 21 October 2011

Inter-connected Technologies and Needs

Welcome back to adventures of Autism Works. First of all, apologies for the delay between entries as I have been away on leave. After my work at Daisy Chain and the success of the World Autism Organisation Conference, I have had a week's break in Italy, before resuming my duties at Autism Works, where I have been reviewing the company's operational procedures that I have been in the process of drafting.

Far from being just a welcome break, my visit to Italy was a fascinating cultural journey, seeing a huge breadth of recorded history stretching from the dominance of the Roman Empire under Constantine in Rome through to the Renaissance in Florence. Seeing such a range of history during a visit is fascinating not just to see the individual breakthroughs in art and science themselves, but also to see such events in contexts. Historical events, art movements and scientific breakthroughs very rarely occur in isolation. Often previous developments play a part, which allow for discoveries to be made by those who can make use or build upon these developments. In Florence, I visited the science museum where I saw the telescope with which Galileo discovered Jupiter's four largest moons, a discovery which had a profound impact on advances in astronomy, changing our perceptions of the solar system. Galilieo though didn't invent the telescope, but instead it was supposedly developed by spectacle-makers in the Netherlands who in turn built upon methods of glass-making developed in 13th-century Italy.

Far from being a series of isolated occurrences, history, including technological development is inter-connected. The Italian Renaissance spawned further historical periods such as the the Dutch Golden Age, which saw further developments in including the microscope. In turn, Dutch technology gradually found its way into England after the Glorious Revolution in 1688 (when William of Orange invaded by invitation), which would later contribute to the Industrial Revolution. Similarly, in contemporary times, those who have followed Autism Works since its inception will no doubt appreciate that the company has far from developed in isolation, not least as it is built upon already existing practice, but also technological developments and needs have played a strong part. 

With developments in software moving so fast in a competitive world (some may even argue that it is moving too fast), there is increasing demand for better-tested software products to reach the market quicker. Just like the developments of visual aids helped Galileo see more details in the heavens beyond the 'fixed stars' visible to the naked eye on a clear night, the positive traits of autism allow Autism Works to see detail that may otherwise be obscrued by the working practices of software developers, just like an independent proof-reader of texts for publication, including this blog, may see spelling and grammatical errors that may be obscured by the writers' creativity. This approach will also be helpful when reviewing the Autism Works Operational Procedures. There are two deliberate spelling mistakes and a grammatical error in this entry - did you manage to spot them? Answers on a postcard!

As well as seeing so much history and culture as well as variation in Italian cuisine, I was also fortunate to see Pope Benedict XVI address the crowd during his Wednesday audience in Rome's St Peter's Square. In the meantime, be sure to stay tuned to New Aspie Horizons for further inter-connected developments in the world of Autism Works.