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Company Trains the Autistic To Test Software 419

Aspiritech, a Chicago based non-profit company, has launched a program to train high-functioning autistic people as testers for software development companies. The company says autistics have a talent for spotting imperfections, and thrive on predictable, monotonous work. Aspiritech is not the first company to explore the idea of treating this handicap as a resource. Specialisterne, a Danish company founded in 2004, also trains autistics. They hire their workforce out as hourly consultants to do data entry, assembly line jobs and work that many would find tedious and repetitive.


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Company Trains the Autistic To Test Software

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  • by kabloom ( 755503 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @08:56PM (#30383570) Homepage

    High Functioning Autism isn't really a condition that impairs people from doing more complex work. It's really similar to Aspergers Syndrome, and people with these two conditions are the kinds of people who would can get good educations and be great programmers.

    (I hear Silicon Valley has a higher prevalence of Aspies, likely because the kinds of jobs found there are a good fit for Aspies and tend to attract them to the region.)

  • by Nursie ( 632944 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @09:33PM (#30383898)

    Depends on the work.

    Testing credit-card software a few years ago the test design was all done for us in the form of standard test packs that were aimed at requirement validation. The poor tester we got to do the work had about 4 days straight of:

    Put card in machine. Press this button. Take card out of machine. Put it back in. Press this button to program card for next test. Take card out of machine. Goto beginning.

  • by matzahboy ( 1656011 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @09:42PM (#30383946)
    Yes, high functioning autism people CAN be successful in the business world, but it is more of a exception rather than a rule. Not being able to communicate well or understand abstract ideas is a real problem in the business world. It does impair them from doing complex work. Everything for an autism person MUST be concrete. I can see why this would lead to success in programming, but they would fail at many other professions.
  • by nywles ( 1132947 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @09:46PM (#30383970) Homepage
    In Holland Specialisterren [] (hmm, sounds familiar) does the same.
  • Re:Data Sourcing (Score:2, Informative)

    by DeadDecoy ( 877617 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @09:46PM (#30383980)
    He was using the 'Mexicans can't drive' statement as an example; not saying that you specifically hold that stereotype. And, the reason one might not use racial stereotypes as opposed to the symptoms of a genetic disorder is that the former has not undergone rigorous testing through randomized control trials. Rather historically, they've just been used to bring people down. If I say black people are more prone to sickle cell, then that statement could be validated through a literature search on the topic. You, however, are acting too much like a self-righteous ass to tell the difference.
  • by CharlyFoxtrot ( 1607527 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @09:53PM (#30384034)

    These names seem to be disparaging. Would you work for a contract agency named Shortbusstaffers or a software company named Weonlyhirethementallydifferent?

    Spicialisterne just means Specialists, nothing derogatory there. Aspiritech doesn't sound to bad either, like a combination of Aspire and tech.

  • by ZeroExistenZ ( 721849 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @09:54PM (#30384044)
    He was someone working halftime to "integrate into society", three years ago.

    The project was a huge database migration, so we would give the kid excell sheets with thousands of records to compare data consistency, validating scripts and data transformations, while management smiled "that'll keep the kid busy for a few months".

    Now, he loved wikipedia, and we'd only see him read franically on wikipedia... at the end of the day, he'd walk up to the IT-manager, each time again:
    "I'm sorry sir, I did my best today but I could only manage to go through 70% of the list. I found some errors which I marked. Next time, I'll try harder, I don't want to dissapoint you.", while the same look of disbelief was on his face over and over again.
    All the consultants that passed through the project with their programming knowledge, could not match the comparing accuracy of this kid with his massive speed, while he just seemed to be reading wikipedia, apoligizing each evening when he went on his way home in all his quirkyness being very thankful to get the "opportunity to work with pcs".

    It's maybe relevant to mention the project was an agressively low priced fixed project, going over schedule so the client being hired for the project kept on dumping starters and benchers to finish the project with the problems you could imagine. It's why I was hired the period of the project to support the other consultants who were stuck in the mess they've been creating trying to get the project done.

    If I would have the opportunity again to work with and rely on autistics for tasks needing massive concentration and accuracy, I'll put all my trust in their hands.

  • by ahabswhale ( 1189519 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @10:58PM (#30384448)
    Along the same lines, I highly recommend "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" by Mark Haddon. It's fiction but educational.
  • by SpaceCadets ( 1428823 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @11:23PM (#30384602)
    And the person that first said it, intended for it to be a more negative thing, "I'm doing the wrong thing, but I intend to remedy it soon..." saying that repeatedly then WHAM, you're in hell. And that guy that first said it turns in his grave every time it gets mis-quoted.
  • by drseuk ( 824707 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @11:42PM (#30384708)
    Actually, the Danish word "Specialisterne" includes a [plural] definite article in its suffix and can be translated into English as "The Specialists", or better translated as "The Professionals".
  • by pipedwho ( 1174327 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @12:27AM (#30384926)

    Testing software is certainly monotonus but if it's predictable then why do it at all?

    The test itself is predictable, but the result isn't.

  • by Anonymous Poodle ( 15365 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @12:40AM (#30385002)

    And yet you misspelled "paid." As an AS kid, you fail.

  • by CecilPL ( 1258010 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @01:48AM (#30385292)

    Actually, non-profits are allowed to run a surplus, even for years in a row.

    What they can't do is redistribute that surplus to employees or owners, as for-profit companies do. They are required to retain the surplus for reinvestment in the business.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 10, 2009 @02:38AM (#30385458)

    you're just fucking weird, and have poor memory

  • by msclrhd ( 1211086 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @06:10AM (#30386274)

    Autism is a disorder, that is true. However, there are various degrees of autism, such as Asperger syndrome, so people usually use Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD, []) to account for this.

Basic is a high level languish. APL is a high level anguish.