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Techies with Autism - Different, NOT Less

World Autism Awareness Day
World Autism Awareness Day

Every year, April 2nd marks International Autism Awareness Day, a day where I personally celebrate the integration of those with autism into the tech sector, and there is always something to celebrate. This year I am celebrating a “Bar Mitzvah” of accompanying those with disAbilities on their way to a career in the tech and IT sectors, many of whom are on the autism spectrum.

I have a soft spot for the talented people who find it hard to integrate into the neurotypical “normal” world, yet with the right kind of help and support are able to find success in the industry.

The best QA tester I ever hired was Aviad. He was extraordinary in finding bugs that others would have never noticed, and he never gave up on his work.

There are those I accompanied at the start of their journey, and since then I only ever follow them on LinkedIn and watch their career progress. After that start they don’t need as much help integrating; they are “like everyone else”.

There are those who may have finished their studies but still haven’t been able to fit into their first job. Their employers made a commendable effort to integrate them, but these employees face unique challenges – ones that hinder them from truly integrating and reaching reasonable productivity, even after a longer integration period than usual.

And there are those who have been working in the company for years and are undeniably valuable in certain areas, yet are more difficult to manage than others. Accompanying them and their managers to maximize success might take a long time and can change in intensity over that time.

Speaking from years of experience, this is the motto to remember: “Different, NOT Less”.

Men and women who are diagnosed with high-functioning autism - those who have completed academic studies and can fit just fine in the tech sector when it comes to qualifications. They are talented but can nonetheless be very confusing. They are "almost" like everyone else, and yet they are not. When they try their hardest to be like everyone else, it takes a heavy toll on them.

When we understand the difference and remember it, even if in the future it feels like the difference has disappeared, we will all be more successful - the companies and the employees.


After many, many years of experience, my biggest takeaway is that it’s not called the autism spectrum for nothing. The difference between two cases of autism can be vast. At the same time though, there are some commonalities that you can be aware of:

  • The most common characteristic of autism is struggling with communication – it’s difficult for them to understand the environment and it’s difficult for the environment to understand them. They think differently and interpret things differently - often in a much simpler, more literal fashion. Jokes? Jabs? Vague messages? Subtext? Many degrees of freedom in decision-making? All of these are a source of great misunderstandings and often lead to others feeling greatly hurt or offended. Clear and precise messages are key to success. When you get used to this form of communication, you will be surprised how much it helps not just the autistic employees, but everybody – including those considered “neurotypical”.

  • Another common issue is anxiety - functioning in our “normal” world that isn’t adapted to them can be very difficult. That feeling of “I don't fully understand you or what you want from me, and you probably don't understand me either” rightfully leads to anxiety and stress. As employers, we can help by providing a patient work environment, making sure to provide clear feedback and a lot of reinforcements - even on things we consider “obvious”, because it’s not necessarily obvious to them.

  • Difficulty in dealing with change – those with autism have a much easier time when they have a full understanding of the situation. Changes will be cause for re-evaluation and require considerable effort to deal with. So if you want to help them adjust to change, do not spring it on them or surprise them. Give them time to prepare and adapt, and they should cope much easier.

  • Difficulty in understanding – both the small details and the big picture. Sometimes people with autism like to know why – Why are we doing this? Why is it important? What’s our end goal? A lack of this knowledge can hurt their ability to focus on a task or to be able to break it down into smaller tasks. Be aware and help them with this, it's a small investment with a huge return.

  • Hypersensitivity - to noise, touch, light. Their personal space is important to them. Awareness and open dialogue can be a great help to them.

  • Do those with autism enjoy company? Most of them do, but in different kinds of doses. Many of them will avoid social interactions because they invest so much energy in the obligatory interactions in the work environment that they will try to avoid anything that isn’t necessary, in order to rest and recharge.

  • They may need more breaks - this endless struggle takes a lot of energy. Be forgiving about the time they take between tasks, especially tasks that involve a lot of social interaction - talking with managers and other employees, team meetings, meetings with many participants, or just when they have trouble communicating and struggle to explain themselves. Like with being with others in general, they will need the time to rest and recharge.

This year, just like before, talented people with autism not only made it into the tech sector, but kept their jobs, progressed, and started fruitful careers. This is always cause for celebration and optimism.

I believe that efforts to diversify the industry in general and employ those with autism in particular will continue. It is still not easy, but becomes more and more self-evident as more companies experiment with it to great success.

So today I give my thanks to everyone who promotes this issue. To those who pay attention to their autistic employees, create a stable work environment for them, and make sure they don’t feel alone in this world.

I further give my thanks to everyone who continues to include the employment of workers with autism and other disAbilities in general in their goals. It is important for your business, and for everyone.


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