Monday, July 22, 2013

The Real Question is How to Further Develop Autism-related Skills

On the topic of autism, the two biggest areas of societal focus are first, the growing population of ASD (autism spectrum disorder) individuals (1/88 live births in the US; 66% college graduates on the ASD spectrum are unemployed), and second, providing resources for normalizing ASD individuals into day-to-day life activities such as work, housing, and dating.

However, there is a more forward-looking neurodiversity view of ASD. Two key points:
  • ASD is a growing societal trend, and it is unclear what this means to humanity overall
  • Part of the ASD disposition is is a unique and profound skillset, and it is a question as to what this means for the possible mental tasks and undertakings of humans
What would it be to focus on the further development of ASD skillsets in individuals as opposed to (or perhaps in opposition to) exclusive ‘normalization’ to neurotypic standards. If ASD individuals can do certain kinds of projects well (e.g.; like focusing intensively a single detailed topic, and finding patterns and exceptions), what can they do really well, and enjoy developing more fully.

One of the first deployments of the ASD skillset is commercial, in software programming where employers are well aware of the benefit of 3% error rates in computer code created by ASD programmers (vs. 18% by neurotypical programmers). Job sites like NonPareil, Semperical, and Specialists Guild are already catering to ASD programming skills. 

A more comprehensive suite of employment-related services for the ASD market was presented at the Autism Hackathon held in San Francisco July 20-21, 2013 by MindFlower. MindFlower is the idea for an eLabor marketplace that proposes to offer two kinds of ASD-skillset related activities: Mechanical Turk-like projects in the vertical markets of big data analysis, life sciences omics, and patent and literature search, and Kaggle-like data science competitions on supercomputer-unsolvable problems. Spectrum skill assessment and development are other features of the site, along with ASD-friendly advertising.

CNET article covering the event is here
Image credit: Kimberly Pickard

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