“If you’ve met one person with Autism, you’ve met one person with Autism.” Dr. Stephen Shore
October 5, 2017
by Dr. Cynthia Norall
In doing research for my new book I had the opportunity to interview managers in a variety of work settings including a Tech company in Silicone Valley, a Biotech Science company in the Bay Area and a huge Utility Company in Southern California. One interview happened to involve a friend of mine from childhood. In all these years I’d never sat and talked for hours about how she viewed her job and learned how much she’d learned from me and my work with Asperger’s. My work then transferred to her being an incredible manager who saw the brilliance in a female with Asperger’s. This woman worked on her team as a computer programmer. What my friend did for the employee was amazing and what I’d want someone to do for any of my clients seeking a position in a company. My friend empowered this employee to be successful. Let me tell a little of the story.
As my friend was putting her team together she “inherited” an employee that many managers considered problematic. My friend agreed to take her on the team. Right away the woman asked my friend if she knew who Temple Grandin was. My friend did. The woman said “I’m like Temple, I have Asperger’s.” From that moment she knew managing this individual would take some understanding. The payoff? This unconventional employee had a quality to her work that surpassed others on the team. So my friend was willing to be a buffer between her and the rest of the team because “it was my job as a manager” and it benefited the company. When others complained about the individual my friend would listen but also point out their defensiveness. She bartered a deal..they would work on not being so defensive and she would work on the employee with autism’s need to repeat herself to make a point. In meetings my friend came up with subtle cues for when it was time to stop making a point. In the end her team was not only one of the most productive but as my friend said, she never had to ask HR for help because she saw it as her job to make it work. The employee with Asperger’s has now retired and according to my friend no one has come along that was as qualified for the work she did; leaving a void for the team.
I watched the pilot and first episode of “the Good Doctor” last night. I hadn’t planned to watch it but Beth, my co-author, told me that I’d be impressed and I was. It’s not a show about autism as much as it is a show of someone empowering a person with autism to be successful despite all the obstacles (attitudes really) in their way. That part is unique and what we hope to get across in our book. Dr. Murphy has a lot to offer to the team, if they will accept him. Thankfully he has an ally in Dr. Glassman. My friend also was an ally, in a real life work situation. I’m grateful to have spent some time talking with her about her work!