Life as a developer on the spectrum 4/4

Former chef and soldier, then turned developer. I love outdoorsmanship, and all things technology.

Chapter 4

This is the fourth and final chapter in my blog post series about being a developer on the spectrum. In this chapter I am exploring what employers and employees are doing and what they can be doing with employees that are on the spectrum.

What can employers do?

To create an inclusive and supportive workplace for employees on the autism spectrum, employers can take several proactive steps. First, it’s essential to foster a culture of acceptance and understanding through ongoing education and training sessions for all staff, highlighting the strengths and challenges associated with neurodiversity. Implementing clear and consistent communication practices can also significantly aid those with ASD, as it minimizes misunderstandings and provides a structured work environment. Accommodations like flexible work hours, quiet workspaces, and the option to work remotely can cater to the unique needs of neurodiverse employees, enabling them to maximize their productivity and well-being at work. Additionally, employers should encourage a personalized approach to task assignments and career development, recognizing that standard paths may only be optimal for some. By adapting workplace policies to include these supportive strategies, employers not only enhance the working experience for individuals with autism but also enrich the overall diversity and talent within their teams. This in my mind would be beneficial in all companies regardless of having employees with neurodiversity.

Dog on the plains of a mountain
Photo: John H Oien “Hiking Norwegian low mountains with my dog Codi”

What can Mews do, and what are Mews doing

As an employer, Mews is fantastic in its focus on mental health issues and work-life balance. Management’s general awareness of the topic and the various “lunch and learns” we can attend are inspirational. We have mental health days, centering on and celebrating all individuals in the company. We also have monthly wellness Wednesdays, allowing everyone to prioritize themselves and their mental health. It can be used for focus work, exercise, yoga, relaxing on the sofa, staying in bed, fishing, walking the dog, or whatever you feel like doing to improve your wellness as an employee. 

What Mews has been doing for me is allowing me to work from home, enabling me to focus more. My managers recognize my needs and approve things like working remotely in a warmer climate. You can read more about that here: Embracing remote work in tech | Mews Developers

When assigning tasks and work, my managers take into account what I am good at and consider my input on what I should focus on. That really helps me cope in my workday. 

All of this indicates that we, as an organization, are ahead of most employers when focusing on mental health in Mews. 

What can we do better at Mews? We can keep focusing on raising awareness, ensuring everyone is aware of and prepared for working with different types of disorders. We can also be more inclusive and supportive of our employees. Allow flexibility for our employees and continue to enhance our policies to accommodate even better plans in the future.

Photo: John H Oien “Niece, brother, sister and mom on a mountain trip with me and Codi”

Is there anything you, as an employee or a Mewser, can do?

Yes, you, as an employee or a Mewser, can do plenty of things. Talk to your colleagues and your peers. Make sure you understand why they behave the way they do. If someone stands alone in the corner at a social event, go talk to them. Please include them in the conversation. 

As someone who viewed myself as an introvert, I put myself in the corner. I recently realized that putting myself in the corner is not because I don’t want to talk to people;

I don’t know how to talk to people in a social setting.

If asked, I have many stories or topics that interest me. But, I do not know how to ask you the same questions as you would me. So when someone approaches me, I know how to answer but not how to start the conversation. 

I also struggle with understanding how or when I have exhausted my conversation time, as I can talk for hours if the topic interests me. Most stereotypical people have a focus span of only 8.25 seconds to a max of 18-20 minutes. In conversation, that means I lose a listener’s attention between those two time marks. Since I do not understand people’s facial expressions when they lose attention, I can talk way past that time. 

How can you help people like me? Be a conversation starter. Address it if you lose your attention span. Divert the conversation in a different direction if I talk too much. I love it when people share, so sharing your story is fantastic. I understand it is hard when I don’t follow up with questions. It is not because I am not interested, but because I do not know how to ask them. And if I follow up with some weird question that might not make sense, it is me trying to be social.

John with icecream in Praha
Photo: David Endersby “Teambuilding with the Users Team in Prague, late night ice cream”

Resources

If you want to learn more about ASD, Asperger’s, or any other disorder, I have gathered some links below.

  1. Autism Society: www.autism-society.org
    Offers resources, advocacy, and information about Autism.
  2. Autism Speaks: www.autismspeaks.org
    Provides information, research, and tools for individuals with Autism and their families.
  3. The Asperger/Autism Network (AANE): www.aane.org
    Focuses on providing support and resources for individuals with Asperger’s and similar profiles.
  4. Wrong Planet: www.wrongplanet.net
    An online community for individuals with ASD and their families.
  5. National Autistic Society (UK): www.autism.org.uk
    Offers a wide range of information about Autism, including diagnosis, education, and support.

For additional support and information, look into organizations like the Autism Society or Autism Speaks. Online forums and support groups like Wrong Planet can be valuable for those seeking community and advice.

Photo: John H Oien “Fishing with family, my wife, oldest daughter and granddaughters”

Another resource I can really relate to is a YouTube channel called Dave’s Garage, featuring David William Plummer, a former Microsoft employee and developer:
https://www.youtube.com/@DavesGarage

Here is a link to his take on introversion vs Autism:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xfw8SteRnNQ

If you feel that some of these things apply to you as well, I can recommend the IDR Labs autism spectrum test found here:
https://www.idrlabs.com/autism-spectrum/test.php

However, keep in mind that if you are sincere and score high on the test, I would recommend contacting your medical health provider and getting a definitive mental health assessment, which can only be conducted by a qualified mental health professional.

Conclusion

In conclusion, my journey as a developer on the Autism spectrum has been a path of self-awareness, acceptance, and growth. I’ve learned to navigate the unique challenges Autism presents in both social and professional contexts. My experience underscores the importance of embracing neurodiversity in the workplace and the need for supportive environments like Mews, which recognize and cater to different mental health needs. My story is a testament to the fact that with understanding, acceptance, and the proper support, individuals on the autism spectrum can thrive both personally and professionally.

If you missed the previous chapters

Life as a developer on the spectrum – Chapter 1 (mews.com)
Life as a developer on the spectrum – Chapter 2 (mews.com)
Life as a developer on the spectrum – Chapter 3 (mews.com)

Former chef and soldier, then turned developer. I love outdoorsmanship, and all things technology.
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