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The connection between IT and Asperger's Syndrome

Original Source: (as a Discussion Post – in 2011)
Current Link: (as a Comment – in 2014)

The below Comment or Discussion Post to this article has moved to a different location on the Internet several times; and in it's current form, it is not as readable as when originally posted.

That is why I have created this local copy on my wiki– to ensure this Comment that I found insightful can be found, and remains as readable as possible.

Discussion Post by cjb7957

As a lifelong computer geek with a both a BSCS and an MA in Counseling Psych I have considered this question quite a bit. Asperger's Syndrome is not a formal diagnosis per se. The formal name from the DSM-IV-TR is Apserger's Disorder. The term syndrome is frequently used to refer to cases where some symptoms are present, but they do not rise in severity to the level required for diagnosis of the full blown disorder.

One of the most common experiences for therapists in training is to read the criteria for diagnosis and become convinced they have many of the disorders in the book. The lesson that must be learned is that a formal diagnosis requires 'marked impairment' in functioning. In general if you do something mentioned in a diagnostic criterion, hyperfocusing for example, it really does not count for diagnosis unless it is severe enough to impair functioning. Otherwise, people with the gift to be able to concentrate better than most would all be labeled as disordered.

This is why so many people are over-diagnosed. The decision as to what is an impairment to functioning is not something that is laid out very clearly. The Book Shadow Syndromes by John Ratey (famous ADHD expert too, BTW) has some powerful perspectives on this.

One of the causes of this over-diagnosis is Insurance Companies. Insurance companies will not pay for your therapy unless the therapist (or an MD) has a formal diagnosis for a disorder in the DSM-IV. Most therapists (like DR Ratey) believe that people stuggling with features of a disorder (even if they don't qualify for the full disorder) deserve help with the features that are troubling them. In order to get the client that help the therapist frequently gives the diagnosis even thought the client really does not qualify for the full blown disorder.

Modern therapy is actually moving (slowly) away from the tendency to label. The labels are useful in that they help with medical treatment, but they really do not inform the work of a therapist all that much.

Since I know many IT people are also fans of Robert Heinlein, I recommend the story Coventry. If you have read the Coventry, you have read an excellent treatment of the question of diagnosis, impairment and the reasons to be cautious about what you do about it.

There is some consideration that having a 'diagnois' for someone who is a bit different from the main stream crowd can be supportive. In this sense having a 'label' may not be all bad. “I am not just a strange, weird person, I'm an Aspie”. I was formally diagnosed 10 years ago with Adult ADD. I can testify that it helped just to know that. So a diagnosis can bring a sense of belonging and identity that is sometimes painfully missing in folks with these syndromes. It can also help them to focus better on adaptive changes for success. However, most therapists would suggest that identification with a disorder is not necessarily a good thing. And the sense of Identity is always an issue with Aspergers folks.

People who have Apergers Disorder could function acceptably in organizations that can adapt to thier idiosyncratic tendencies while leveraging thier, usualy impressive, cognitive skills. I would not expect to find them widespread in large IT organizations unless buffered in some R&D or black room group.

However, based on casual observation as a professional therapist, people with the 'shadow syndrome' of Asperger's Disorder are sitting all around me at my IT day job. So what. They are good people all.

The real question is, what possible difference does it make whether the association between Asperger's behavior tendencies and IT is true. If so, it is clearly is a win-win scenario for both IT and Aspie.

mirror/wellness/it-and-aspergers-post.txt · Last modified: 2016/01/13 20:35 (external edit)