Being on the Spectrum is a Superpower! — Greatway Financial
We have gone a long way from identifying ‘Autism’ as a psychiatric condition to now an idea of an ever-growing continuous spectrum. In respect of celebrating World Autism Month this April, we want to talk about how being in the Autism Spectrum Disorder can be an advantage and how it should be widely embraced by every industry.
The Asperger’s disorder or syndrome was just recently “folded into the autism spectrum” in 2013. It is the biggest change in the newest controversial revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, since been called the DSM-5. Asperger’s disorder was not included in the spectrum because people with the disorder may sometimes not show the communication impairments specified for autism but with this “folding” into the DSM-5, the hope is that individuality will be respected and the recognition and treatment for these disorders will be both individualized and dimensional. Hence, diagnostics will be clearer and also will bring more clarity for the rest of us. Although, some people are still reluctant to associate themselves with the Autism Spectrum Disorder and identify themselves more strongly as having “Asperger’s” instead.
Individuals with Asperger’s syndrome or now a part of the Autism Spectrum Disorder is characterized by having difficulty performing in social situations. They also might be apathetic in practicing accepted societal norms, while being indifferent in nonverbal communications. People with this disorder typically have an intense interest in a few topics so much that they become experts in these areas. This gave rise to the popular but a mistaken notion that ALL individuals with this syndrome are intelligent with high IQs and/or has exceptional memories.
Although it is not true for everyone that being in the spectrum are gifted/savants, because of their uninhibited view of the world and topics that they focus on without the constraints of societal norms, they can have certain talents and can be a force to be reckoned with if they choose to.
The most prominent example of this today is Greta Thunberg, a Swedish environmental activist who primarily addresses the climate change problem and founded a movement known as Fridays for Future (aka School Strike for Climate). Thunberg was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, now considered an autism spectrum disorder. She first learned about the global warming when she was eight years old and first stirred the media when she went on a “School Strike for Climate” where she sat outside the Swedish Parliament. Now, the movement that she started are now practiced in several countries. She also gave a speech in the UN climate event in New York City. There are a lot of criticisms about her, but she did raise awareness for the Global Warming. Aside from this, she also inspired others within the spectrum and also helped others acknowledge that being in the spectrum may be a factor in her actions and growing into the person that she wants to become.
Another example from the history books that anyone would know is Albert Einstein, who is one of the most famous scientists renowned for his contributions in Physics and Chemistry. According to Michael Fitzgerald, professor of psychiatry at Trinity College in Dublin, a long list of ‘geniuses’, which includes Einstein, all had the syndrome. We don’t know much from Einstein’s childhood, but we do know that his speech development was slower than kids his age and that he actually didn’t start talking until he was three or four. There was also the term, Einstein Syndrome, which was used to describe kids who are late talkers. We also know that he found it hard to make friends and preferred to be alone. All these descriptions fit someone who’s in the Autism Spectrum but he still became someone who pushed the boundaries of our understanding of the universe and his discoveries are still being applied to a lot of things today.
Satoshi Tajiri, the creator of the Pokémon also confirmed more than once that he has Asperger’s. His hobby when he was a kid was collecting bugs and that was the inspiration for the pocket monsters in Pokémon. He generally does not like talking about his diagnosis in public. Rather, he prefers that his success speak for themselves and with estimated total revenue of more than $100 billion USD, it is sufficient to say that the whole franchise was really successful and it is still one of the most anticipated video games being put out today.
There are many more amazing individuals who can be considered part of the Autism Spectrum Disorder. It is even debated now that the workplace and every industry should not only recognize but also embrace neurodiversity, the concept that brain differences are just basically that, differences pretty much like individuality. Benefits may very well include but not limited to:
1. more diversity across all dimensions promoting more inputs for more efficient problem solving,
2. more precise terminology and discouragement of other employees to use abstract language for easier communication, understanding and workflow,
3. as well as challenging the status quo by seeing things through the eyes of people with different worldview and implementing a more streamlined, duplicatable processes.
We at Greatway, not only embrace neurodiversity but also celebrate it. The very system the advisors operate was created for the people who do not have great social skills therefore adds ease for them to do the business. The platforms created for the independent brokers were set in place for them to be able to work regardless of their comfort level with other people and no matter how well they are in connecting with new prospects. Also, internally, the staff are encouraged to speak up and share their (maybe in other companies’ eyes) wild ideas. Some of these were taken and we’re not only supported but also integrated in the way the business is done.
Being in the spectrum should not only be accepted but embraced. Everyone’s personality is different and now we know that even our very own genetics is unique too. With the growingly wide acceptance and more simplification of the terms, more people are learning more about these disorders. Through the success of other people who are in the spectrum we can easily see how it can be a superpower.
Now, we can make a strong argument that being in the spectrum is not a disability in the traditional sense. Maybe it is not even a superpower, some might say. Maybe what we need to understand is that being in the spectrum is as normal as having different preferences and different personalities.