Autism seen as asset, not liability, in some jobs - A new movement helps hone unique traits of disorder into valuable skills
By Chris Tachibana, msnbc.com contributor, updated 12/8/2009
Ron Brix’s longtime job as a computer systems developer for Wrigley, the gum and candy maker, required intense attention to detail, single-minded focus and a willingness to work on something repetitively until perfect.
The secret he credits to his success? Autism.
Brix, age 54, was diagnosed in 2001 with Asperger Syndrome, a form of autism often marked by the exact traits that help make him an ideal employee.
"My career would not have existed at all without the autism," says Brix.
The developmental condition, which strikes about 1 in 150 U.S. children, is considered a "spectrum disorder" because it affects people in many different ways to varying degrees, from mild social troubles to a severe inability to communicate.
It's often seen as a heartbreaking diagnosis, but now some revolutionary companies see autism as something else: a resource.