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Dell Autism Hiring Program (dell.com)
330 points by ra7 on Mar 24, 2019 | hide | past | web | favorite | 185 comments

Thank you for sharing this. As someone with ASD who feels disadvantaged by traditional interviewing, it's comforting to see more examples of companies expanding their approach.

I live in Canada, so this doesn't seem to be available to me. But, I still have a year or so until I graduate, so I think I still have time to sort out my plans.

By maintaining >50% engineering staff for so long, Google has inadvertently created a fascinating study of the interplay between two spectrums: autistic and psychopathic.

More on the similarities and differences here, namely aspects related to empathy: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3826592/

It seems of no coincidence that so many of Google's social products have misfired - due in part to this interplay - influenced by the empathic dissonance found in managers from both sales and engineering departments.

I suppose it is another way of saying that Google (insert other SV giants here) employees are not only demographically dissimilar to the customers they serve, but that they cannot hope to represent them faithfully due to this empathic dissonance at senior decision-making levels.

Perhaps this is part of the fate that befalls most large and successful companies.

By this theory, given the scale of Facebook’s success, Mark Zuckerberg should be a super-emptathetic person.

Ha, but that wasn't quite the theory I espoused...

1. Facebook was social at the core, and succeeded while still small. 2. Their efforts in this space were proactive 3. Google tried to add social much later, while already massive. 4. Their efforts were reactive.

I was referring to large companies initiating projects in response to perceived market conditions.

What I saw in 5 years at Google was engineers who didn't know what people wanted, and managers who didn't care what people wanted, hence my crude allusion to these comparable spectrums of behaviour.

Of course there were countless exceptions to this, however there were enough impactful examples of both for it to be noticeable and troublesome to me.

Buzz is the ultimate example.

I agree Buzz was probably the best example

https://alanhogan.com/buzz-is-already-dead (About the UI/UX nobody wanted)

https://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/13/technology/internet/13goo... (Failure to respect users and imagine any blowback from violating trust and privacy)

Interesting theory! I can see some merit in it (even if most people are downvoting you, probably salty G employees haha).

That has nothing to do with why Google+ failed. Or Allo. It's because everyone was already using Facebook and WhatsApp and those have extreme network effects, and Google+/Allo were basically the same thing just owned by a different company. You don't need to invoke autism to explain it.

I found Google+ to be great, but not nearly as many people used it. I'm not on any social network anymore though.

FYI many of the people who were an Google+ are moving to MeWe.

I'm not suggesting it as a primary cause, I'm offering it as an explanatory factor that is not coincidental.

The network effects statement is both true and relatively unimportant, considering prior social and chat networks had periods of extreme dominance before Facebook and Whatsapp, and that others will in future.

All despite network effects.

Apologies if I came across somehow invoking autism as an explanation for business failure. I certainly applaud initiatives such as Dell's, and we can easily find examples of brilliantly successful products and services created by those on the spectrum.

I mean to suggest that psychographic profile differences between the large tech workforce and their potential customers may be enough to contribute to product failure. This is particularly so if the products require empathic understanding, a known problematic for both the autistic and psychopathic spectrums.

Here's what I'm wondering: if they think this separate process is more reliable than traditional interviewing... why keep it a separate process rather than using it for everyone?

I've encountered this type of program before. The interviews often include tasks that traditional candidates would find boring and lots of repetition.

That's a self-adjusting question then. If the candidate finds a way to automate the boring part and/or make it faster, they've demonstrated at least two of the three Wall Criterion so that should be a +1 in their evaluation.


> The interviews often include tasks that traditional candidates would find boring and lots of repetition.

Intuitively this sounds like many programming tasks (I still like programming, but admit that many tasks in programming are quite repetitive) - thus good questions for neurotypical candidates, too.



I like the "supply questions ahead of time" - everyone should do this!

How does this demonstrate the claim?

i don't remember sorry

A process that corrects for biases against autistics - such as lack of eye contact - would be more accurate only for assessing autistics.

While I admit I don't know the details, it seems unlikely to me that this process works the way you seem to be supposing it works, by somehow measuring bias and then correcting that out, such that it would yield incorrect results when applied to the wrong population. My suspicion is that it's more likely that it works by using processes that don't generate as much potentially biasing -- which is to say, irrelevant information -- in the first place. In which case it's just a better, less biased process in general.

Information can be irrelevant for evaluating autistics and relevant for allistics, too. Especially if you give autistic employees roles or support that obviates some of their common weaknesses - you'd still care about whether non-autistic applicants have those weaknesses.

If you're assigning them different roles, then that's actually a matter of what information is relevant for the role, not whether the applicant is autistic or not. If it's your support hypothesis, then the apparent relevance is due purely to the discontinuity in your "support function", so to speak. (Where some people need the support more than others, but only some are judged properly autistic and so receive it.) If it's a case where you can make the support available to everyone, with people just using less of it as needed, or if you can otherwise remove the discontinuity, then the problem goes away.

Unless you're diagnosing everyone who avoids eye contact as autistic, this is not true.

Probably a cost issue? Cost being not just money but time involvement required

Wow, this strikes me as unbelievable. How things have changed since the industry was up in arms over Alex St. John's "Recruiting Giants" PDF [1] where he explicitly called out the "holy grail" employee:

  Be on the look out for the holy-grail... the undiscovered Asperger's engineer. (usually found on open source forums)

  * They have no social skills
  * They generally marry the first girl they date
  * Can't make eye contact
  * Resume and educational background is a mess... because they have no social skills
  * They work like machines, don't engage in politics, don't develop attitudes and never change jobs

[1] https://www.geek.com/news/developer-bro-alex-st-john-want-a-...

People are generally more forgiving when you perceive your employees' disability in a positive light instead of viewing their disabilities as something to exploit.

It's a subtle difference, but the first one encourages/enables the employee to function in spite of their disability or perhaps one day overcome the shortcomings, or simply work in a way / environment where it becomes irrelevant. (Software development already gets us 90% of the way there)

The other, well, that one doesn't really give a shit as long as you're productive, i.e. it will probably still exclude a large portion of autists and never really help anything. Hell it probably expects to never give them upward mobility with that last remark either.

> People are generally more forgiving when you perceive your employees' disability in a positive light instead of viewing their disabilities as something to exploit.

Is that what this is?

I guess it's no more exploitative than employing anyone else.

> I guess it's no more exploitative than employing anyone else.

I think it’s way more exploitative because you’re not leveraging a person’s (by average definition) “strengths” to your/the company’s benefits, you’re using their weaknesses (and weaknesses are relative, but I’d say the list of traits above most people will probably think might complicate or hinder the persons long term success or happiness - in fact it could easily lead to one sided exploitation).

That list contained both weaknesses (no social skills) and strengths (doesn't engage in politics).

Doesn’t engage in politics (in that list) means that they will become a pawn for other people’s politics.

Show me an office without politics and I’ll show you one with unlimited vacation time

Not necessarily. Like anything it could be good or bad in certain situations. I interpret it as meaning the person will be driven to do what's right according to logic and merit as opposed to politics. It's another way of saying they are a disagreeable employee which are known to be very valuable to companies.

I also take it to mean that they will focus on what they enjoy and not scrabble to climb the corporate ladder.

> I also take it to mean that they will focus on what they enjoy and not scrabble to climb the corporate ladder.

Climbing the corporate ladder is something many employees seem to enjoy.

Yes, in order to climb the corporate ladder an employee must seem to enjoy it

"Office politics" is a euphemism for anti-social behavior as I see it.

And, an office "without politics" with more than two persons maybe doesn't exist, but there is certainly more "office politics" in Paradise Hotel than in my office, so it's not like anyone that stays out becomes a pawn in some scheme.

Weakness: No social skills

Strength: Gets trampled cause no social skills

Sounds pretty horrible.

Dell is exploiting autism here, but in a way that hopefully benefits both parties.

How could anyone stand to work for someone who so swiftly limits the breadth and depth of a person via their mannerisms such as this? it's dehumanizing, full stop.

His daughter disowned him.

it kinda came across as a tongue-in-cheek shitpost to me. is this guy known to be an unironically terrible individual or was he just taking the piss out of the semi-exploitative & work fetishising culture of the industry?

Here's the full context of that quote: http://web.archive.org/web/20170119234745/http://www.alexstj...

(spoiler alert, it's the first one)

Ironically shitposting about autists is a great idea. Theyre very good at recognizing irony.

I could understand saying something like this in private with an audience that understands the satire, but it strikes me as foolhardy to write/publish something like this as there’s no way of reading the room. If it’s a joke, it’s not smart in its delivery since anyone can assume it’s sincere.

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” — Kurt Vonnegut [1]

[1] https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/379912-we-are-what-we-prete...

Wow, I used to work with someone who ticked every one of those boxes. Incredibly knowledgeable and spent all of their free time reading spec documents and programming. Unfortunately they could be emotionally unstable at times which was had to work around.

Its not really relevant but the list seems to not actually describe Asbergers but some other collection of symptoms that results from being socially deprived. (However, this probably matches up with popular conception of Asbergers individuals.)

I think the "key" is finding people who deal with their problems by diving deep in to technical tasks and becoming absorbed in minutiae. An unnaturally small interest set combined with a lack of interest in people.


Are you deliberately misspelling Asperger's in the South Park vernacular [1] to be offensive or something, or is it just a mistake?

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ass_Burgers

Sorry I was up all night and didn't even consider that I was spelling it wrong. My track pad is broken and so I can't right click to spell check. (I am waiting to start my new job to get a new laptop.)

Wouldn't they have then spelled it as you've written it and not halfway between? Seems to be a typo to me

It's probably a mistake, but South Park has rendered that misspelling/mispronunciation into somewhat of a pejorative.

Please don’t call autistic people as “they”, we are human and please remember if you met one autistic person, you met only one autistic person. We are as different as neurotypical persons are different.

Parent poster is using "singular they". This is a well established correct English usage, but it may be confusing to people speaking English as a second language.

I refer to everyone as they. I don't see why you have a problem with this. My comment doesn't need to contain details of gender.

Uhm. I usually call other humans “they”. How else I am supposed to call them?

Sorry I was not clear, please do not refer autistic people as “group”, autism is a spectrum and each autistic individual can be very different. Not all of us are emotionally unstable. This kind of generalisation is pretty harmful.

Again, the OP was not using a collective noun to refer to autistic people as a group, their post was about a single individual with autism.

Seems to be a miscommunication. I use they as a gender neutral way of referring to individuals as the English language doesn't offer a better alternative.

They (ndnshs) seem to just be referring to a single person here. Not a group.

This is about an employer making their employment process more accessible, the Alex St. John thing was mostly about the opposite and traded in (to put it charitably) dumb stereotypes. You're probably misreading something if you see this Dell program as a sign of some industry-wide adoption of Alex St. John's views.

well i hit 4 of 5 of those points (missing only no 2) so its not far wrong

This perfectly describes a few of my friends.

SAP has a similar program[1], which has been profiled by CBSNews[2].

[1] https://www.sap.com/corporate/en/company/diversity/different...

[2] https://www.cbsnews.com/video/hiring-autistic-workers/

The way our industry treats neuro-diversity is autistic.

I am very dyslexic, the other day I misspelled the word TAB as TAP when implementing an event listener in a codebase +100K lines. It took me half a day just to find this bug.

At LastCo I heard the project manager and scrum master joke behind my back "we'll just have the autist with OCD do the programming" while referring to me. In their mind lacking a "theory of mind" also includes not having any peripheral hearing.

That joke was a low blow form the PM & scrum master and not remotely funny. You'd think that as working adults they would know better.

We always have cheeky banter in our office, but never behind one's back or on account of their difficulties.

That is just sad. Even if you weren’t dyslexic everyone messes up by misspelling a word and spending much more time than they should debugging. As a manager I would spend my time trying to figure out how we can help you reduce the likelihood of this happening again and not make fun of you for a mistake that everyone makes.

As an example, my first hire was an immigrant from Africa. He can speak English, but his spelling is not ideal - and because English is not his first language his naming structure for things like variable and classes needs improvement. To help with this I implemented specific standards for how naming should work and gave him a ton of concrete examples of how I would name something in a number of scenarios. Now that he’s been working for me for a while, I only actually have to give feedback on naming conventions maybe once a week.

Edit: spelling.

That kind of people will always find something to jab at. If it's not this it's that. They're very willing to throw such insults as "innocent jokes" but when they're at the wrong end of one they never find it acceptable and will complain till the end of time.

I make little mistakes like this all the time in a massive code base. What I do is do a diff on the code to see what's changed. Much easier than hunting through. This applies any time it "should work" but does not.

Also, I am sorry you have to work in an environment like that.

I mixed up l and I in my ldap function in some php code. I'm not sure if it was the framework (fat free) or something else but that function would never throw any errors or exceptions.

It was maddening and took at least a day to notice. I started questioning my sanity. I never thought to just do a diff...

Something that also helps cut down on these types of bugs for me is Semantic Highlighting. I've gotten my whole team to use it.

It's great, because you don't have to read the var name, you just have to see if there's any var in a function that doesn't have the same color as anything else and they tend to stick out like a sore thumb.

Not sure if that's the best explanation, but if you're using any JetBrains IDE you can try it by going to Settings and searching for Semantic Proximity and hitting the check mark. Easier to show than explain.

I’ve once had a non printable in a header file on a huge codebase (mobile phone OS and apps, pre-iPhone) :(

Not only totally unprofessional, it is also bad Project Managing as a typo is a common mistake. So rather than making childish comments, I'd be asking how we could improve the debugging process!

It's a reason to fire that manager. I would report it higher up. If you hear it one time he does it probably all the time.

And yet so many programming languages don't require you to declare variables. The downside of this (accidentally creating new variables on a typo) are well documented and difficult to track down. What is the upside again?

As a side note, did you consider switching to statically typed language with a good IDE?

This isn’t a bad suggestion. I make silly spelling mistakes all of the time. Especially if there are other things going on in the office.

When I have to work with large JavaScript codebases I always move for TypeScript for that very reason.

It won’t compile if I’ve done something like that and will happily shout the line at me that (paraphrased example):

   545: someArray.srt((a: number, b: number) => a-b) - ‘srt’ does not exist on type Array
Etc, etc.

And good integration with an editor or IDE will produce these errors without needing to run the compile step which saves a lot of time and frustration.

The good IDE is key for me (I am dyslexic too). I find Jetbrains' products to be a saviour with all the autocomplete and intellisense.

I don't have to worry if I've spelled the variable incorrectly or (more frequently) used a synonym instead of the word I first used; autocomplete catches it.

I wonder if that scrumlord is even capable of writing useful code anymore.

At my old school, the worst of managers had just no clue how to dive in and help. Sometimes they'd try and it would make things worse. Their mortgage payments and continued relevance began relying on control, not capability.

This would have been okay of we were the appropriate size for so many manager types but we really needed engineers who could lead.

Is this necessarily a negative comment? It comes across to me as “we’ll get the person who’s really good at focusing to do the programming”. Unless it was said in a sarcastic way? I think it’s worth asking the person what they meant, if they meant it in a good way, you’ll find out, and if they meant it in a bad way, most people will be embarrassed about being asked about it, so it will put them on notice to avoid saying things like that in future.

I'm struggling to think of a situation when using a disorder to refer to a person is acceptable.

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/autist “Definition of autist: a person affected with autism”

This whole discussion is in the context of people with autism being sought out by an employer because they are very good at certain skills. The fact you would take “autist” as a negative term about a person suggests some prejudice on your part against autism, rather than being someone who celebrates people’s differences

I think saying autism is something employers seek out is quite the reach. I'm on the spectrum myself and if anything my experience tells me that even the best developers are destructive if they don't mesh well with others.

We're only beginning to really understand Autism, Asperger Syndrome, and countless other cognitive states.

So programs of this nature are wonderful to see — they create the opportunity to learn from and work with people who think differently than the general population.

> Microsoft has a similar program

My, um, psychic powers for predicting the future tells me anybody with autism issues or even just introversion who goes there will be penalized heavily in the stack rankings (which they no longer formally do, but informally...) at performance review time for lack of "visiblity" year after year and eventually be washed out of MS as "good attrition".

It might help that Microsoft has already abandoned the stack ranking process[0].

[0] https://hbr.org/2013/11/dont-rate-your-employees-on-a-curve

It still exists for the purposes of bonus and raise distribution (“rewards”) - and while the mandatory rank-and-yank policy has been removed, there’s still pressure within management to eliminate lower-performers.

A huge problem with Microsoft’s employee evaluation system (“//connect”) is the fact it’s still self-evaluation. If you’re too honest or self-critical regardless of actual performance then you will be pseudo-ranked lower than someone who knows how to bullshit their way through self-evaluations.

Let’s just say I learned the hard way. Being (constructively) self-critical in self-evaluations was drilled into me in Catholic school and it actually really helped me in university, but no-one told me it’s career self-sabotage when you enter the workforce.

I have ASD as well.

I wonder if they sponsor visas as well.


I sometimes joke that I have an Autism Spectrum Order. Whatever disadvantage I’ve had as a result of autism, I didn’t notice in real time — I only began to recognize the social disadvantages I’ve regularly experienced sometime in my mid 30s when doing a lot of reflection on my life.

To whatever extent I’ve been disadvantaged (and the disadvantages are certainly there upon reflection, and have been my whole life) I’ve been much more heavily advantaged in life, in ways that I associate with autism. I do consider it a superpower, personally.

But I have multiple relatives for whom the scales clearly balance heavily in the other direction. That I do not consider it a disorder in my own life is in no way a denial that many people have a different situation going on. To add to that, as I understand it, nobody really knows what autism is yet — it’s an umbrella term, and perhaps what’s going on in my brain will someday be classified separately from what’s going on in the brains of those who experience more disability than I do. But for now, and possibly forever, it’s all the same label, and I gotta respect that there are many folks who have a considerable amount to offer the world but who could use more help than I’ve needed in that regard.

>X-ray vision is clearly not a disability.

>Aspergers isn't either.

X-ray vision was never considered a developmental disorder, because it didn't put Clark Kent at any significant disadvantage during his development.

Asperger's, unfortunately, does.

(I don't count my wheelchair as a super-power because more often than not I have to push up-hill, not glide down. It's a net negative effect on my ableness to cope with normal life.)

>>X-ray vision was never considered a developmental disorder, because it didn't put Clark Kent at any significant disadvantage during his development.

Perhaps a better analogy is his super-hearing, which did make his early life on Earth very difficult until he learned to control it.

It is a disability.

Sure, Aspergers is usual beneficial to techies from a performance perspective, but it can be a massive disadvantage when dealing with people within an organisation.

I used to work for a local authority in an sysadmin position and it was very fortunate that HR understood Aspergers, or my lack of social awareness would have got me sacked a few times.

The upside of having Aspergers is only part of the story.

It is disadvantage in tech world too. Saying as someone who had collegues like that and seen then shoot themselves and also shoot others (which ended shooting them indirectly) without knowing or meaning to.

It's an advantage for some parts of software development, but I would be surprised if it wasn't a net negative for the vast majority of developer jobs.

I don’t know how it is in the US but in the UK The Autusim Society themselves describe it as a ‘disability’. And what’s wrong with disabilities anyway that makes you go ‘ugh’?

> And what’s wrong with disabilities anyway that makes you go ‘ugh’?

People officially regarded as disabled are often treated as 2nd class citizens, with all kinds of bizarre things done to them. Including sterilisation in some countries, which there are reports of still happening to this day. :(

If you're already going around forcefully sterilising people then I don't think you're going to be convinced to skip someone because they don't self-define as disabled.

> The Autusim Society themselves describe it as a ‘disability’.

Yeah, I've heard of "official" places doing that. To me, it seems quite unfortunate they'd take that approach.

You can officially get the document of having a "limited ability" with an Autism diagnosis in many countries.

Yeah, in Hungary if you are diagnosed with ASD you are automatically considered as mentally retarded.

It's the same in all of the ex Eastern Block countries I believe.

Interesting. It's pretty insulting (of those countries, and Microsoft in this instance).

Maybe that's just my viewpoint though. ;)

Only because you think disability is insulting in itself.

It only implies a reduced ability, beyond the person's control, to perform in certain circumstances, to a degree that warrants consideration (from society, from the law, whatever).

Autism and similar conditions are by that definition disabilities.

So how you call it, when I have the ability to perform social interaction as a neurotypical person, because I learned how to do it, but I choose not to do it in certain situations, because I don’t see any advantages?

Also, do you consider it a disability that my hearing is much more sensitive and I can hear the buzz from the old light panels and I need to wear noise cancelling headphones to be able to concentrate?

Yes. You had to learn social interactions which are innate behaviours in most people. The fact that you are able to compensate does not meen it is not a disability. And, consider that there are those with the same condition who cannot compensate.

Aren't you giving an interpretation that just isn't compatible with the literal meaning of disability? Doesn't it literally mean "unable"? That doesn't sound like a word you'd want to live up to. Maybe something like "challenged" would fit your definition better?

Nope, pretty much every official use of "disability" in an HR/official process is taken as the OP said.

Sure, but isn't that what offense is taken for? In the Netherlands there was a move to calling it "less abled" ("minder-valide") instead of "invalid" or "handicapped". It's just a softer way that seems more considerate of the non-binary effects of a condition.

I have ADHD. I think it's insulting not recognize neurodevelopment disorders as a disability.

Just curious, why exactly is it insulting? Would you not classify it as a disability? Why else would they have an autism hiring program if they weren't hindered in some way?

> Would you not classify it as a disability?

Why would you classify Aspergers as a disability?

It's like saying Superman's (yeah, fiction, but it's to highlight the point) x-ray vision is a disability, just because it's something most people don't have.

X-ray vision is clearly not a disability.

Aspergers isn't either.

X-ray vision doesn't prevent you from doing anything. If x-ray vision would prevent Superman from driving a car, because he couldn't see traffic signs it would qualify as a disability.

Actually it may be a better analogue than it first appears, and not understanding that might also help understand the situation as a whole.

Those without Xray vision shouldn't be expected to understand the downsides: imagine if you can always see what's inside a gift, or who is hiding behind a door?

Whilst it seems only positive, you lose out on something that's a fundamental part of ocular-typical upbringing.

Indeed babies learn, eg through "peekaboo" (a game in which an adult hides their face from a baby), about object permanence in part by not being able to see things and then to have them revealed. Peekabo also is the beginnings of parental detachment, learning to cope when you can't see your mother (or current favourite carer).

That sort of developmental difference could have untold social effects.

There are huge temptations to cope with, not just sexually. "I left the book in my locker" - well with Xray vision I don't have to accept the lie but can verify it for myself. "My sister's not home, sorry", well of course Supe-y can see she is, and [I think, with the Xray vision he has] see who she's texting "Superman can be a real jerk" to.

TL;DR -- One thing Superman may not see is the damage he's doing by not respecting personal boundaries, and by not playing along with people's white lies ...

Asperger is a developmental disorder that makes social interaction and nonverbal communication significantly harder. It's not a superpower.

This. Just to add, aspergers isn't something that can be turned on or off at will, unlike x-ray vision.

Tbh, I'd say, calling something insulting due to its association with a disability, might be insulting to those with visible disabilities.

come on man tell me a lifetime of loneliness is a happy thing that should make me proud of how diverse i am or something....

If not a disability, what would you call it?

You can call it disorder.

Why call it anything?

Blue eyes are... blue eyes. They're not a "disability" either.

What would you call having blue eyes?

Because there aren't any people so high on the blue eyes scale that they need gloves and a helmet or they'll cause self harm.

I'm curious to see what's going to happen when an employee, secretly part of a neurodiversity hiring program, says something that makes someone uncomfortable and that gets reported to HR.

Will someone's comfort levels take precedence over the desire to employ someone with difficulty with social cues?

Or will we visibly "tag" employees who are neurodiversity hires so that you know that if they somehow offend you, that might be because they're on a different wavelength compared to you, so you should give them a pass? Do neurodiversity hires get to keep their status secret, or will the company need to disclose it?

On one hand, you don't want to fire them, that will look terrible for the company, but on the other hand, you don't want people to feel uncomfortable either, which creates legal vulnerabilities down the line. Curious how that conundrum gets solved.

Imagine someone with an obvious physical disability. Like being in a wheelchair. They can't really hide that, and we (hopefully) make accommodations for them. People are generally pretty great if you know the accommodations necessary. And if they hit you with their wheelchair by accident, you probably will feel bad for getting in their way instead of reporting them to HR for workplace violence.

So I imagine if you have a hidden disability, if you need accommodation, it's in your best interest for people to know that, so they can accommodate you. I can understand hiding it in the outside world because you never know how people will react, but at the workplace, people will figure it out, and if they treat you poorly because of it, then they get the boot, so it's probably a win all around to make it known.

It's a little more nuanced than that, and it does depend on the condition in question. Autism in SV has a reasonably benign reputation, but other mental "abnormalities" not so much.

An SO of many years had bipolar disorder, and it helped me get a deep appreciation for the amount of game theory that goes into disclosing one's condition to others, especially at work. Most of the "reaction" from people doesn't have to be explicit, nobody is going to call you "the crazy girl" to your face at work.

BUT, given the reputation and stigma that something like bipolar disorder has, you're never sure how exactly you're implicitly (as in, implicit bias) being treated differently by your peers.

Did your company pass on giving you a certain role because they're not sure you can handle the pressure with your condition? Are peers and managers looking at your behavior through the lens of someone who is not in control of their mental states? How many years will it take for you to establish a reputation of someone who's reliable and fight against the natural inclination of those around you to distrust your equanimity? Are people going to interpret your shortcomings through the lens of "she must be off her meds"? Will someone be able to use your condition as leverage over you in a competitive environment and how do you prove discrimination against you in that case?

> So I imagine if you have a hidden disability, if you need accommodation, it's in your best interest for people to know that, so they can accommodate you.

In my experience, even if it is made known, people are less forgiving of non-visible disabilities and some that interact with the disabled individual less frequently may even forget that it exists. One may have to actively "display" their disability, even if they'd rather appear to be as normal as possible.

Yeah, there's definitely less 'leeway'/sympathy given to those whose disabilities are invisible/mostly invisible.

Honestly, I'd say it's probably an uncanny valley effect of sorts (as depressing as that sounds) where those who look 'normal' but don't act it put people on edge and arouse suspicion.

Jerk and someone with asperger is not the same. Some jerks do like to pretend the reason they just can't stop insulting others is asperger, especially on discussion forums. It is not same as the one with asperger.

First, you can actually communicate with people who have asperger and tell them that this or that thing is insulting. They are able to follow the rules typically even is they don't understand them. They also won't be charming toward boss and manipulative toward peer amd then offending junior minority dude.

People with asperger take in feedback, just like neurotypical take in feedback, unlike jerks who refuse to accept being told they have done something wrong. You actually say to someone with asperger that his behavior is offending in specific way and you can expect him to follow. You can't expect him to know unspeaken or subtle rules.

People with asperger are uncomfortable to all around in similar way and you see that in interactions that are not racist sexist or whatever jokes. If someones offending behavior shows up only in such things and only towards weaker people, then it is not asperger.

Tbh it seems like a pretty big jerk move to think that just because you give someone feedback, they should do what you say or otherwise they're jerks.

Aspies are often told they have done something wrong, only to find that others can get away with doing the same thing. This naturally leads to trying to discover the real rules instead of the ones people try to make others obey. That's where the friction really occurs.

It's not that it's impossible to understand, it's that is impossible to take seriously once you see through it. And the insistence on superficial token demonstrations of decency, instead of actually decent application of principle, makes it tedious af.

At minimum one is expected to listen to that feedback and think about it. And yes I do my best to respect boundaries of other people. Parent poster started with level of offense that would be ground for firing. No, other people don't have duty to let others insult them and are entitled to set boundries. That includes people with asperger (who are more likely to be victims here).

You absolutely can communicate about these issues with someone with asperger. Yes, highly charizmatic people can often skate rules due to knowing when and where to do it and making friends.

That does not make communication with aspies impossible as parent implies. Nor it creates some kind of unsolvable concordrums where one would be expected to take no action if aspie is in interaction vs firing if it I somebody else.

It's really hard to expect anyone to be good at complying with rules they do not understand, unfortunately.

(Even if they're fully willing, the required exactitude for a rule to be followed by people who don't understand it is orders of magnitude greater and is seldom achieved by any rule except through painful and time consuming iteration)

The ways in which people who had asperger were uncomfortable really had nothing to do with things one gets fired for through HR.

They were treated unfairly due to not kissing right asses etc on occasion. But there we are talking about subtle issues, not the firing offences which tends to be easy to be on safe side of.

> says something that makes someone uncomfortable and that gets reported to HR

If it's a one-off, not part of a pattern of behaviour, and the person is willing to apologise, they can usually be forgiven.

(Doubling down on "I'm right and they were wrong to be offended", on the other hand, is a terrible idea)

If you want a visible physical disability analogy, imagine that someone with a wheelchair runs over someone else's foot.

"I'm sorry, I didn't realise you were there" = everyone's friends again

"I'm sorry, you shouldn't have been standing there" = probably OK in the long run but unpopular

"You should have got out of my way" = unacceptable response.

"> says something that makes someone uncomfortable and that gets reported to HR

"If it's a one-off, not part of a pattern of behaviour, and the person is willing to apologise, they can usually be forgiven.

"(Doubling down on "I'm right and they were wrong to be offended", on the other hand, is a terrible idea)

This is true in almost any situation.

Yeah, this is a good point.

Then again, I worry that the current social/political climate isn't a good one for people on the autistic spectrum (or neurodiversity) in general.

Someone in this situation would already potentially be a whole lot of trouble (especially if the offendee goes on the internet with the complaints), neurodiversity hiring program or not.

The assumption here - "autistic people are arseholes" - is probably untrue, and is a perception caused by the number of arseholes who self-diagnose but who wouldn't get an actual dx, and who then use that as an excuse to continue to behave like arseholes.

I know a lot of autistic people, and a few of them are arseholes, but they are entirely ordinary arseholes. Their arseholery is very much the same as the arseholery from NT people, which makes me think it's not the autism.

I don't think that's the assumption. The point I was making is that that even for non-neurodiverse people it's exceptionally difficult to communicate in a way that never leads to someone taking offense or being made feel uncomfortable when working with people from different backgrounds, cultures and experiences, all under high stakes conditions.

We all constantly put feet in our mouths despite our best intentions (see the whole concept of micro aggressions) and being able to navigate subtle social situations when that inevitably happens is difficult for everybody. Much more so for someone who is worse at reading nonverbal cues and struggling with anticipating "how will this make them feel?"

There is plenty of room for offense and misinterpretation between the most benign accidental faux pas and giant asshole moves, and that's where I suspect most of the rope to hang yourself with lies.

There's a quote from He Who Shall Not Be Named here that is an interesting datapoint from a recent event, echoing my point: https://tech.slashdot.org/story/17/11/19/043243 . I suspect he wasn't a giant asshole, but maybe others would argue otherwise.

In reality I don't expect neurodiverse individuals to end up as cases on HR's desks: I would be shocked to see harassment anywhere near the top of the list of situations that might arise from this push for inclusion. Awkward situations in intra-team interpersonal dynamics? Sure. But real harassment, not likely.

ASD isn't anything new, you're comments act like this is something we haven't ever had to face before. Turns out a lot of developers have some form of ASD, it's very common in the industry. Odds are you already have someone on your team on the spectrum.

I think OP has a valid point. How do we differentiate the discourageable bad behavior from someone's disabilities? Trying to draw a line there is almost an exercise in futility. I would not want to be the HR person that has to handle a situation like that.

That's exactly it. As of today, if someone says something "inappropriate" to another employee, they either get a warning or get booted right away depending on the severity. Nobody's digging into whether this person is actually on the spectrum, unless they had given clear signs in the past to justify it. You conform, or you're out.

However, once the company is making an explicit effort to be welcoming and inclusive to employees with a neurodiverse background, what do you choose to prioritize in that kind of stallmate?

I don’t think it’s anything to lose sleep over. Just assume someone with ASD can apologize, the same as anyone else who says something stupid. And that they feel bad when embarrassing things slip out.

I’ve worked with a lot of people with ASD over the years, it’s never caused any serious problems. You have worked with them too; once you know what to look for you see them all over tech.

Imagine employing the late Terry A. Davis and then dealing with his comments on race. Still think it's something normal and easy to deal with?

In Europe, there is http://specialisterne.com helping to hire people with Asperger‘s. Pretty good experience so far, can certainly recommend.

Edit: actually seems they’re on pretty much all continents.

Tangentially related, as someone who is almost certainly "on the spectrum", but has never been diagnosed, is there any benefit to having this diagnosis? Is there any point in seeing someone about it?

Autism and ADD are fairly often co-morbid, and ADD is the most treatable mental condition (via stimulant therapy). If you have executive function issues (procrastination, losing things, inability to remain focused on boring tasks, self-medicate with lots of caffeine, etc), you can get a combined Autism + ADD diagnosis and try out amphetamine or methylphenidate.

As far as the autism itself, what a diagnosis gives you is access to talk or group therapy, possibly accommodations at work or school, and maybe classes for picking up social and coping skills.

Workplace accommodations are a mixed bag: you have to tell your work about your autism and implicitly threaten a disability lawsuit against them to get them. If you're in software and you need to have a desk without rear-facing traffic, you often have the negotiating power to just ask for that as a thing that helps you do your job better, so the diagnosis isn't particularly useful. Oh also, the "just ask for things you need" works better for smaller accommodations at smaller companies, the diagnosis is way more useful for the more bureaucratized environments at large companies.

Well sir, I am fairly screwed up and would like some amphetamines. Thank you for the advice.

i know its different for everyone but i was diagnosed ASD and ADD(inattentive) and getting prescribed Elvanse (Lisdexamphetamine) was a life changer for me

Yeah same here, I'm not kidding at all when I call ADD/ADHD as the most treatable mental health condition. It's night and day.

It might constrain the space of things that can be used to fire you "for cause". Firing for cause can affect some compensation like stock options. Some state level organizations (Massachusetts Commission against Discrimination, for one) have the power to sieze assets or freeze assets during an investigation, which seems a heckuva lot more convenient than an actual lawsuit.

So, maybe it can be a strategic defense against getting fired for a bullshit cause around the time your options vest, or when you finally scrape together the cash to purchase your NSO options.

Is there an objective test for autism or is it just a matter of convincing an expert that you’re autistic?

I’m asking because, if society provides enough benefits for people “on the spectrum” how do we prevent people from gaming the system?

When benefits are involved at all, people act funny. I’m reminded of people misusing handicapped parking placards, for instance.

I’ve also known people with perfect vision to wear eyeglasses because they found them fashionable.

Exist some "light" autism (that maybe I have?) and CAPITAL Autism (that my twin have). The second? It impair life so hard is impossible to live without constant help.

The kind of autism most people talk, like the one that is so "good" that you could actually have a nice Job on Dell and others, maybe is hard to diagnose. That is the reason to say is a "spectrum"

But autism that is in the hard side of this spectrum? Is impossible to miss it.

Autism is a developmental disorder, so any case severe enough to need large amounts of social support will generally get diagnosed before people start trying to rig the system (Munchausen by Proxy cases excepted, of course). You can get an adult diagnosis of autism spectrum, and they'll ask about your childhood, but it's not currently worthwhile to verify via interviewing your parents.

Also, social security disability benefits for autism are difficult to obtain without a childhood diagnosis. Basically the thinking is that if you weren't disabled enough for your parents to need help getting you through school, you're not disabled enough to be unable to work. This really sucks for the edge cases that fall through the gap, but does have anti-fraud advantages.

Would this even be a benefit for someone without autism? It appears to just be an alternate interview process. Unless you are failing the standard interview for the specific reasons that the alternate process is designed to avoid, you would be better off with the less time consuming standard process.

How is the eyeglass thing remotely relevant? People wear jewelry because it’s fashionable as well.

That depends on a lot of factors. My ex and both my sons likely qualify for some kind of ASD diagnosis. None has a formal diagnosis.

My ex joined the military, where wearing a uniform was a requirement. His job before that was at McDonald's, where wearing a uniform was a also requirement.

Most people bitch about uniforms, but some people like not having to think about what to wear to work and wearing a uniform fits current recommendations to allow a person with ASD to have a limited selection of duplicates and wear similar or identical outfits everyday so as to not aggravate sensory issues.

I don't expect my ex to ever get a diagnosis. The label would be stigmatizing (and I think he would object to being so labeled) and he found his niche without needing a label.

My sons were never formally diagnosed in part because I began homeschooling them at an early age, when they were both in elementary school. I didn't need a formal diagnosis to accommodate their needs as a homeschooling parent. I just did the research and made the call as to what made sense.

If you can find a path forward that lets you do what makes sense for you without being diagnosed, that can absolutely work. If you want to do a particular thing and your quirks are interfering with that goal, I formal diagnosis may legally entitle you to appropriate accommodation.

Picking a job that happens to fit well with what works for you is one option.

Doing freelance work or running your own business so you get to have a lot of say in how things get done is another potential option.

Working for a small organization instead of a big one may give you more latitude to do what makes sense for you without needing a label and "a doctor's note," so to speak, to justify it.

Well, it can help if you want a job at Dell.

You know all those people who worry about sexual harassment overreactions? A diagnosis might help in those situations.

You're saying you should get diagnosed as a form of legal protection in case you accidentally have a weird interaction with the other sex?

Not just legal. People are much more forgiving of innapropriatw behaviour if they can point to a disability outside of your control; as opposed to you just being a jerk.

No one complain about a blind man staring at them if they know they are blind.

Not just legal. People are much more forgiving of innapropriatw behaviour if they can point to a disability outside of your control; as opposed to you just being a jerk. No one complain about a blind man staring at them if they know they are blind.

Because they are literally not seeing you. If someone pinches your ass, but has autism they still pinched your ass. If someone is so disabled that they assault or harass people, that is a problem that won’t necessarily be forgiven. Instead it might lead to claims that the person is so disabled they require a more structured environment.

...And of course if it turns out that you lied about your disability or its role in your behavior, everyone will want your head on a pike.

I think it's unlikely the parent was referring to actual physical harassment.

I agree with the premise that acceptance would probably be higher for someone who comes across as awkward, or makes a social faux pas in an effort to fit in if they were on the spectrum, as opposed to just being "that weird guy."

This is a great move Dell. Hope others will follow.

I'm struggling ATM to explain to my employer that my ADHD makes me prone to being distracted by talking, and in a open office plan it's a everyday issue, we are allowed to listen to music, but my manager seems to be trying to catch me out, pretty demotivating.

There's also auticon - https://auticon.com/

Actually http://lacasadecarlota.com/ only hires peolple with some kind of autism. They are doing it from Medellin, Colombia and are one of the big players in the creative industry here.

Inclusion has clearly gotten out of control

A recent article posted on HN offering funding to women to study programming sparked a flamewar, with many users claiming that special hiring policies for women in the tech industry discriminate against men.

The current article is about a special hiring policy for autistic persons in Dell. Luckily there doesn't seem to be a flamewar this time around.

Of course, I wonder why. To be honest, I don't understand why so many users were upset about the former article but not this one. It just seems dissonant to me.

I'm quite confident that the present comment will not start a new flamewar, btw.

> Of course, I wonder why. To be honest, I don't understand why so many users were upset about the former article but not this one. It just seems dissonant to me.

Only a minority subscribes to the neurodiversity idea. Autism is considered a disability by most people, therefore this is not controversial.

Quotas for women can be, because we are taught they're equal to men.

I did not mention neurodiversity.

From what I've seen in the other thread, most people complaining about "reverse discrimination" felt that one should get a job only based on their ability to do the job, regardless of gender or antyhing else.

It follows that if a person with a disability can't do the job then they shouldn't be hired over someone who can, but doesn't have the disability, in the same way that one who can't do the job but is female should not be hired over someone who can but isn't.

I think suggesting that the disadvantages of gender are in any way comparable to the considerably greater disadvantages of being mentally or physically disabled is in extremely bad taste.

I would not hesitate to change genders, not for an instant, if it would free me from my disabilities.

>> I think suggesting that the disadvantages of gender are in any way comparable to the considerably greater disadvantages of being mentally or physically disabled is in extremely bad taste.

I don't understand what this has to do with my comment. Are you saying that I'm comparing gender with disability?

Because autism is a disability. Being a woman is not a disability.

While in a perfect world does not need to be one, couldn't you say that by just the way a large chunk of the tech community (not necessarily devs but also gamers ect) reacts to them they on average have more bad social experiences just like austic people do? (For totally different reasons ofcourse)

I don't understand. What does autism being a disability have to do with special hiring practices being discriminatory or not?

Can you please explain this whole American "affirmative action" and "special hiring practices" thing? As I understand it, when given two candidates with equal interview results, the company will choose the female instead of the male one. Am I getting it wrong?

The generic explanation is: The 'minority' can often have worse interview results and still get the job over a non-minority.

There was recently in the news a lawsuit against Harvard I believe, because there is some evidence that a White or Asian (minority in US but not in schools as a lot of them attend school) student can have better admissions testing scores and a "underrepresented" minority with lower scores gets admitted instead.

Wikipedia: In other countries, such as the UK,[7][8][9] affirmative action is rendered illegal because it does not treat all races equally.

The Harvard lawsuit you're referring to was quite a bit more subtle than that. There was a consistent pattern of Asian applicants getting lower scores in interviews conducted by Harvard admissions officers than in the other interviews that were part of the application process while other applicants of other races got approximately the same scores from admissions officers as from other interviewers. This was taken as evidence that the admissions officers' interview scores (and thus the overall admissions decisions) were biased against Asian applicants.

That is correct...in some cases they'll even choose the woman/Black/Hispanic over a more qualified Asian or White candidate to boost their diversity numbers.

Maybe people with autism are just less likely to feel condescended-at and "upset" by this whole misguided notion that "just" teaching people to program is the solution to every problem in society. People have wildly different backgrounds, experiences and inclinations; it's easy to see this in the case of autism-spectrum neurodiversity, but the idea that maybe lots of women just aren't that attracted to the whole programming thing is seen as more contentious for some reason.

Regardless this works or not, very kind of Dell.


i mean honestly after the hwndu spectacle, it's a surprise the nsa didn't start a shitposter hiring drive >https://encyclopediadramatica.rs/He_Will_Not_Divide_Us#March...


No, what's the hypocrisy? It's a tragedy that mental health services and awareness are inadequate.


I'm sorry for your suffering, but please don't take HN threads on tangents like this, so we don't have to ban you again. This is in the guidelines:

"Eschew flamebait. Don't introduce flamewar topics unless you have something genuinely new to say. Avoid unrelated controversies and generic tangents."



The perceived validity of your opinions does not automatically mean they're welcome in unrelated places

Dell: Let's do something utterly self-serving and watch the plebes mistake it for a kindness.

Hewlett-Packard also fun one from Australia, and the package that unit up to their accounts as a service.

I dont understand this post.

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