Autism and Software Testing: A Symbiotic Relationship
According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 26,000 children born in the US each year eventually will be diagnosed with an autism disorder. Around 80 percent to 85 percent of adults on the spectrum are typically unemployed or underemployed, primarily due to the lack of social skills they exhibit in the limited time they are exposed to their interviewers.
However, this situation is changing. Autistic people are being hired globally at a faster rate, not out of sympathy, but due to employers acknowledging the special skills they bring to the workplace. These are people who are typically extremely detail-orientated and not bored by taking on repetitive tasks with a great level of precision.
These traits make people with autism spectrum disorders a great fit for certain jobs in the software industry, including coding and, increasingly, software testing. The requirements of a successful software tester—intense focus, attention to detail, and going through the same scenario over and over again in multiple ways—are all skills an autistic person brings to the table. In fact, sometimes they are said to even have a competitive edge over people without such disorders. They are increasingly being viewed as an asset to organizations, if the right tasks can be assigned to them.
Organizations of varying sizes are beginning to recognize this connection between autistic people and software testing and are starting to tap them effectively. Microsoft made an announcement earlier this year that it would fill software testing positions in Seattle with such autistic people, and SAP also is committed to increasing its hiring of people on the spectrum. There’s even a startup founded by MIT alumni that focuses on hiring only autistic people.
More organizations following in these companies’ footsteps will significantly bridge the gaps in employment for people with forms of autism and help them achieve more independence and a sense of accomplishment. Autism is a large spectrum that has a range of disorders, and software testing may not be a fit for all of them. But for the people who do take to working in the software industry, it often turns out to be an environment where they not just survive, but thrive.
This new connection has been globally identified, and with companies already coming forward to absorb these employees into their mainstream jobs, the situation is only going to improve moving forward. It may become common to see an autistic tester as part of most core testing teams in the years to come.