Not your neurotypical consultant: demand for autistic tech experts surges

Autistic adults often experience difficulty in finding work, but IT consultancy and social enterprise Auticon reports a rise in demand for their skills

Launched in London last year, Auticon is a social enterprise that exclusively helps adults with autism find work in IT. It offers support from ‘job coaches’, and has links with major firms across the country.

According to figures from the National Autistic Society, only 16 per cent of autistic adults are in full-time paid employment, despite 77 per cent of those who are unemployed wanting to work.

Auticon currently employs 15 full-time autistic IT consultants in the UK. But the company says demand for these skills is higher than ever, and so has launched a campaign to find more applicants.

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“We saw that so many talented individuals, who wanted long term employment and had so much to offer, were missing out,” said Auticon UK CEO Ray Coyle.

“We have had great responses from major blue chip clients, who really value the skills our consultants bring. So great, in fact, that we are now unable to meet demand. We are calling out for autistic adults, who have an interest in technology, to apply.”

Auticon UK CEO Ray Coyle

The surge in demand – from companies ranging…

A Father’s Age at Conception Influences a Child’s Social Behavior Later on

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People are having children later in life nowadays. They’re delaying marriage too. Millennials need to gain more education and spend a longer time in the workforce building up their career, in order to afford a wedding and children. So how is this shift affecting the next generation and society as a whole?

Many studies have focused on the impact an older mother has on a child’s development. For a woman, having a child later in life increase the risk of miscarriage, a difficult pregnancy, and the child having a developmental disorder. One plus side though, older women might parent better.

Now, studies are turning towards older fathers. New research has shown that children born of a father over age 35 have a higher risk of autism, schizophrenia, or a birth defect. One study found that children born to dads over age 40 may even risk lower scholastic achievement.

Though slight, over an entire population, the impact could be significant. So much so, that one UK bioethicist has proposed a program to encourage 18 year-old’s to bank their sperm, and have the National Health Service (NHS) pay for it. The results of this study show that if such a plan were enacted, officials might want to wait to collect until the man was a little bit older.

Little girl writing.

Older fatherhood may increase the risk of lower scholastic achievement. Getty Images.

A new study finds that an older father is the single most important factor in a child’s development of prosocial skills. This was independent of the mother’s age. The results of this study were published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and…

Barber Goes Extra Mile For Boy With Autism, Cuts Hair in the Car

When this 16-year-old boy started having anxiety in the middle of a haircut, his mom figured he would be walking away with half a head of hair – that is, until the barber went the extra mile for her son.

Evan O’Dwyer has nonverbal autism and sensory disorders, making it very difficult for him to process sounds and commotion. His mother Deirdre usually resorts to clipping his nails and moisturizing his skin while he is asleep.

So when she first took her son Dylan to get his hair cut by Donncha O’Connell at the Baldy Barber in Blackpool, Ireland 21 years ago, she saw…

How One Kind Woman Surprised A Mom During Her Son With Autism’s Meltdown

When Shekira Farrell’s son with autism became restless while visiting a beauty supply store with her, the mom expected an employee to stare or possibly be rude. What happened instead surprised her.

Farrell took her son, 6-year-old Jaiden Farrell-Harris, to a beauty supply store in Neptune, New Jersey, on April 23. She told HuffPost that Jaiden was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder a few months after his second birthday. When they arrived at the store, Farrell knew her son was restless and hungry and remained patient with him as he touched things in the store and ran through the aisles.

“He couldn’t really help it and wasn’t trying to cause trouble, and I knew that, so I was going after him and trying to calm him down and put the items back in their right place,” she said.

Farrell expected an employee from the store to stare or say something once they saw what Jaiden was doing since she has experienced similar reactions in the past. Instead, a woman at the store kindly interacted with the 6-year-old.

Thanks to a kind woman, 6-year-old Jaiden made a “new friend” who helped him through a meltdown at a beauty supply store.

“She was so kind and it caught me…

Why Are So Many Musical Geniuses Asocial? A New Study Reveals an Interesting Link

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We often see in the media autistic savants who can write and play music like grand masters with incredible talent and flourish. In fact, of autistic savants and savants in general, having extraordinary musical talent is one of the most common advantages. A new study published in the journal Cognition, suggests a reason for it. Those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have superior hearing.

Some of the advantages include “enhanced pitch discrimination” and “increased auditory perceptual capacity.” Even so, ASD people often find normal, neutral sounds grating. This may be because their auditory system takes in more sound than neurotypical people. Said differently, they have a higher capacity.

Investigators conducted two behavioral experiments to discover these differences in auditory perception and how it led to certain advantages and challenges for those with ASD. Anna Remington and Jake Fairnie were the two researchers who conducted the study. They hail from the Centre for Research in Autism and Education, at the UCL Institute of Education, in the UK.

The study participants were 20 young adults with ASD and 20 neurotypical young adults, all between the ages of 17 and 34. They each participated in two computer-based tests. In…

People With Autism Describe What It’s Like

The autistic mind can’t be accurately described by someone who doesn’t have autism, and even the doctors who study the disorder can’t describe its effects on the mind as well as an autistic person can.

While I live a pretty normal life I have a lot of issues with sensory sensitivity. Like loud noises, bright lights, certain food tastes, smells and standing in crowds of people. These things make me feel a bit stressed out resulting in various issues like headaches and digestive problems.

While we’re on the subject. Certain non-autistic people have the misconception that those of us on the spectrum would “lack empathy.” That is simply not true. We often have a hard time to “read” people, but we certainly do not lack human empathy. That needed to be said.

So if you want to know what it’s like to live with autism you must go to the source and ask those who’ve had their lives and minds disrupted by the disorder.

Emotions can…

Autism, ADHD risk not linked to prenatal exposure to antidepressants

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SEEKING TREATMENT Pregnant women coping with depression now may have one less thing to worry about: Prenatal exposure to antidepressants doesn’t raise autism risk, two new studies suggest.

Taking antidepressants during pregnancy does not increase the risk of autism or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, two new large studies suggest. Genetic or environmental influences, rather than prenatal exposure to the drugs, may have a greater influence on whether a child will develop these disorders. The studies are published online April 18 in JAMA.

Clinically, the message is “quite reassuring for practitioners and for mothers needing to make a decision about antidepressant use during pregnancy,” says psychiatrist Simone Vigod, a coauthor of one of the studies. Past research has questioned the safety of expectant moms taking antidepressants (SN: 6/5/10, p. 22).

“A mother’s mood disturbances during pregnancy are a big public health issue — they impact the health of mothers and their children,” says Tim Oberlander, a developmental pediatrician at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. About one in 10 women develop a major depressive episode during pregnancy. “All treatment options should be explored. Nontreatment is never an option,” says Oberlander, who coauthored a commentary, also published in JAMA.

Untreated depression during pregnancy creates risks for the child, including poor fetal growth, preterm birth and developmental problems. Some women may benefit from psychotherapy alone. A more serious illness may require antidepressants. “Many of us have started to look at longer term child outcomes related to antidepressant exposure because mothers want to know about that in the decision-making process,” says Vigod, of Women’s College Hospital in Toronto.

Previous studies indicated that the use of antidepressants came with its own developmental risks: autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, premature birth and…

Sesame Street Introduces Julia, a New Muppet With Autism

There’s a new Muppet on Sesame Street: Julia. She’s a “preschool girl with autism who does things a little differently when playing with her friends, the lovable Elmo, Abby Cadabby, and Grover,” the Sesame Workshop told ABC News in 2015, when Julia made her debut—in digital form—as the face of a broad set of autism-awareness tools the Sesame Workshop had rolled out called “Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children.” But based on her popularity online, Julia is about to become a full-fledged Muppet when she joins the rest of the gang on Sesame Street in April.

In the storybooks, Julia explains to her Sesame Street friends how she likes to play a little differently from them.

“If you’re five years old, and see another kid not making eye contact with you, you may think that child doesn’t want to play with you. But that’s not the case,” Sherrie Westin, Sesame Workshop’s executive vice president of global impacts and philanthropy,…

Yale Researchers Find That Autism Genes Helped Us to Become Smarter

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Those with autism face distinct challenges. These usually have to do with certain social deficits. That might be why the results of a new study appear a bit puzzling. Genes linked to autism spectrum disorders (ASD) were actually preserved through the process of evolution, Yale researchers concluded. These genes actually made us smarter.

If you find these results strange, consider the large numbers of scientists and engineers known to have Asperger’s syndrome. There are autistic savants as well, as the movie Rain Man can attest, which was based on a true story. Or perhaps you’ve seen the work of mind-blowing artist Stephen Wiltshire, who can draw panoramic scenes of whole cities with perfect detail, from his memory alone.

This was a genome-wide study, zeroing in on gene variants associated with ASD. Researchers examined 5,000 cases of autism and analyzed the genome of each participant. They focused on evolutionary gene selection, particularly on which genes were positively selected. One clue which led researchers to these findings was that, more genes associated with autism were preserved by evolution than would have been through sheer randomness.