This article comes in three parts. First, in case you’ve no idea what I am on about, a short summary section of Autistic Spectrum Disorders with some useful definitions. Second, if you’ll allow me, a section of self-indulgence in which I will attempt to explain to you my own relationship with my Asperger’s Syndrome in the hope that this personal experience will put this article into context. Last but not least, I shall end with an important summary of what can be done in the workplace to help people with Autistic Spectrum Disorders do their jobs whilst benefitting from the same respect, tolerance and understanding as their neuro-typical colleagues.
So, some definitions:
Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is the umbrella category for a group of conditions which very broadly include the symptoms of difficulties with social interaction and communication, repetitive behaviours, restricted interests and sensory issues.
Autism is the most common and well-known of the above conditions and is often used as an umbrella term itself, including synonymously with ASD.
Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) was, at the time I was diagnosed, classified as a separate condition to autism. Since then, however, it has been redefined as one of the conditions covered by the umbrella term of ASD. Some people also use AS synonymously with high-functioning autism. Others, myself included, find the latter term unhelpful and offensive to those not classed as “high-functioning” and would prefer it if it were not used.
Aspie is a word which some people with Asperger’s Syndrome, including myself, have reclaimed for themselves. It is wise not to use this term for other people unless they have explicitly said that it is ok to do so.
In the following paragraphs I shall try to use the above terms as consistently and coherently as possible. If, however, I slip up and am less than clear please do accept my apologies. You will hopefully be able to work out what I meant to say.