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Where those on the spectrum excel

What do our students do best? What do they excel in? In a Wall Street Journal article of March 27th 2014, there was confirmation of what many of us had long believed: what had been thought of as a weakness in our students is in fact a strength. The German software giant, SAP, is actively seeking students with autism because it believes that certain features of autism make those individuals better at some jobs than those without. SAP intends to have 1% of its entire workforce comprised of individuals with autism by 2020, and the program to actively hire those with autism spectrum disorders has already been rolled out in Asia, Europe and now North America. The head of the autism initiative for SAP in the U.S. notes that those with autism spectrum disorders are very detail oriented, which makes them great software testers or debuggers. They tend to have a structured nature and prefer an unambiguous, precise outcome—that helps with identifying software problems and assigning customer queries for trouble-shooting. Others are employed writing manuals, which require very precise instructions to guide customers in installing software. Individuals with autism shine at following precise steps, where others might skip a step. That is invaluable in monitoring a supply chain, or tracking the processing of orders, or invoices. Freddie Mac, the U.S. mortgage giant, is on board too. It offers internships in IT, finance and research to individuals on the spectrum, and it hired its first employee from the program in January of this year. They too see the strengths of those on the spectrum, and how their unique skills might strengthen the company. How can we capitalize on this new-found appreciation of the skills and talents of our students? By providing them classes and courses which train them to do what they do best. Let the hiring begin!

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