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Neuro-diversity: (Literally) Thinking Differently


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An irreverent take on the issue of neuro-diversity, which examines some of the more tried-and-tested techniques for making the office a welcoming place for "normies", and how we (the autistic community) can work towards being more inclusive and accommodating to our easily-distracted, detail-averse and excessively-social colleagues.

Published in: Software
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Neuro-diversity: (Literally) Thinking Differently

  2. 2. A LITTLE ABOUT ME  Developer, Architect and Technical Strategist  Began my career as a doctor of bioinformatics  Former Enterprise Fellow with the RSE  Student of the IDesign school of architecture  Also autistic
  3. 3. AUTISM AND AUTISTIC SPECTRUM  1.1% of UK population 1  ~700,000 people  Developmental condition  Life-long  Cannot “grow out of it”  Exists as a spectrum  Not linear  No-one is “a bit autistic” 1
  4. 4. TERMS USED  Within  “On the spectrum”  “Autistic”  “Autists”  “Aspies”  Without  “Off the spectrum”  “Neuro-typical”  “Normies”  “Humans”
  5. 5. PEOPLE WITH AUTISM  Around 1/3 of adults are in paid employment 1  Around half of those are in full-time employment  Life expectancy 16 years lower than average 2  40% have some form of anxiety disorder 3  Occurrence of depression way higher than average 1 2 3
  6. 6. ANOMALY Over-representation in STEM fields!
  7. 7. ANOMALY
  8. 8. QUESTION Why are “Normies” so under- represented in technology industry?
  10. 10. NEURO-TYPICAL TRAITS  Easily distractible 1  Obsessively social 1  Suffer deficiencies in attention to detail 1  Don’t always say what they really think  It’s not “simply an excuse to justify good behaviour” 1 Steve Silberman, NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity
  11. 11. BAD THINGS TO SAY  “You don’t look neuro-typical”  “I have a friend who is neuro-typical, do you know them?”  “I couldn’t tell you were neuro-typical – well done”  “Does that mean you’re really bad with numbers/computers?”  “How can you be neuro-typical if you’re not married?”
  12. 12. ROLE MODELS
  13. 13. ROLE MODELS
  15. 15. CONVERSATION  Highly improvised  Tone  Context
  16. 16. EXAMPLES I never told her to say that to him I never told her to say that to him I never told her to say that to him I never told her to say that to him I never told her to say that to him I never told her to say that to him I never told her to say that to him I never told her to say that to him
  17. 17. SENTENCE MEANING PERMUTATION CALCULATOR + A A = (words – pronouns) * emphasis B = pronouns C = contextually relevant preceding clauses 0 < D < ∞ (metaphors + idioms) + BC2( ) + DMeanings = 1
  18. 18. METAPHORS AND IDIOMS  Metaphor = when a word or phrase is applied to a thing to which it is not literally applicable  i.e. literally using the wrong words to try to say something  Idiom = a group of words with a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words  i.e. literally using the wrong words to try to say something
  19. 19. Idiom Meaning “Blue sky thinking” Finding creative ways to solve problems “Brainstorming” Finding creative ways to solve problems “Thinking outside the box” Finding creative ways to solve problems “Thought shower” Finding creative ways to solve problems EXAMPLES
  20. 20. SUGGESTIONS Idiom Meaning “Muddy water spouting” Finding creative ways to say the same thing, repeatedly “Muddy Waters pouting”
  22. 22. EYE CONTACT  Inherent distrust of those who don’t look at them  Try somewhere else  Teeth  Nose  Just behind the head  Remember  Follow the noise
  23. 23. BODY LANGUAGE  Facial expressions  Body posture  Hand gestures  Used extensively in poker, less so in video games
  24. 24. DOCUMENTATION  Many ‘self-help’ manuals available with examples  Like ‘body language phrase books’  Unfortunately, many neuro-typicals also read them  Purposely alter their behaviour to project a different image  Find out which books they are reading  At least you can work out what impression they would like to make
  26. 26. OFFICE ENVIRONMENT  Open-plan office  Minimise quiet/private areas  Intended to encourage creativity and discussion  Makes it much easier to look busy, even when nothing is happening  Also cheaper  Find a dark corner with a power socket and a chair
  27. 27. OFFICE ENVIRONMENT  Music  Creates ‘atmosphere’  Sound should cover the entire office footprint  Avoid breaks in the playlist  Recommended: Spotify, Absolute Radio or Magic FM  Purchase noise-cancelling headphones and anti-depressants
  28. 28. OFFICE ENVIRONMENT  Cultural Fit  Shared character, values, opinions, and use of language  A bit like ‘Groupthink’  Diversity of opinion is good, as long as isn’t challenging  If you have a dissenting opinion  Check if you are popular enough to be different  Post an anonymous comment on Glassdoor
  30. 30. SMALL TALK  “Conversation about unimportant or uncontroversial matters”  Especially on social occasions, with people you don’t know  Meant to be generally pointless and uninformative  Intended to help people relax  Generally does the exact opposite  Try looking too busy to talk or pretend to be on the phone
  31. 31. ALCOHOL  “The Devil’s Lubricant”  Avoid at all costs  Neuro-typicals get nervous when “masking” fails  Stick to diet coke, or just don’t join in