The autism spectrum
Many people connect the term autism to the movie “Rain Man” from 1988 starring Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise. Rain Man does indeed portray an autistic person, albeit one with the so-called savant syndrome, an exceptionally rare single-focus ability allowing a person to perform astounding tasks, like for example memorizing books by heart or learning a language in a week. At the moment, only about 100 people worldwide are known to have this syndrome.
Autism is far more than just the savant syndrome. The so-called autism spectrum differentiates three principal forms of autism:
Atypical autism (about 0.1 % of the population, develops only after the age of three)
Infantile autism / Kanner syndrome (about 0.4 % of the population, severe dysfunctions in some cases)
Asperger syndrome (about 0.3 % of the population, serious issues with social interactions and communication; normal to high intelligence)
The Asperger syndrome is also called a lighter form of autism. It is a distinctive contact and communication disorder. It is different from other autistic disorders in that the afflicted tend to have good to very good cognitive skills.
Despite their marked strengths in
• power of observation
• photographic memory
• spatial orientation
• detail recognition
• lateral thinking
• logical thinking
• stamina and persistence
• loyalty and adherence to the truth
only about 15 % of those afflicted with Asperger syndrome are employed on the regular job market. Apart from professional competence, which is a given, employers also expect job applicants to have basic skills like communication competence, capacity for teamwork and autonomy. The peculiarities of the people with Asperger syndrome in regards to social interaction and communication normally lead to them not being considered in the selection process. Should some nevertheless succeed in getting a job due to their professional competence, the aforementioned issues will oftentimes come up later and often cause big problems which are due to lacking social competence.
Begabtenzentrum - Diagnostik und Beratung von ADS, ADHS und Hochbegabung
Intellectually capable but socially excluded? A review of the literature and research on students with autism in further education; Nick Chown and Nick Beavan, Journal of Further and Higher Education, 2011, DOI:10.1080/0309877X.2011.643771
The Autism-Spectrum Quotient: Evidence from Asperger Syndrome / High Functioning Autism; Males and Females; Scientists and Mathematics; Simon Baron-Cohen et. al., Journal of Autism and Development Disorders, 2001