Sunday, May 25, 2008

“I can’t change my Asperger’s Syndrome so I may as well get on with what I can do”

Neil Shepherd – Software Developer


Software Developer, Neil Shepherd was shocked to discover he had Asperger’s Syndrome. Up until the age of about 31, he had lived with the condition without even knowing he had it. Asperger’s Syndrome is a form of autism and is often referred to as a hidden disability because it is not easily recognised. It’s also described as a 'spectrum disorder' because it affects people in different ways. According to the National Autistic Society, people with Asperger’s Syndrome have difficulties with social communication, social interaction and social imagination.

However, Neil’s disability has not been a barrier to his career. He is a computer science graduate and has been able to find employment that allows him to make the best use of his qualifications and his talents. “I need to keep busy all the time and I find my work challenging, in a positive way” says Neil who works for Esteem, an IT company.
Employer's story

Although the nature of the professional work at Esteem is highly technical, Human Resources Manager, Joanne Smart, always looks for more than technical skills and qualifications when recruiting new staff. She tries to employ people who will fit in with the company and its culture. “It’s not something you can determine from a CV or application” says Joanne, “you can only really assess whether someone will fit into the company when you meet them at interview.”

Best person for the job

Esteem’s two stage interview process gives Joanne and other managers the opportunity to learn more about a candidate’s personality, attitude and motivation. In Neil’s case, Joanne says that his ‘personability’ was a key strength of his interview and this, along with his qualifications and experience made him the best candidate out of the ten people who were interviewed for the job.

Neil was the first employee with Asperger’s Syndrome that Joanne recruited so she researched the condition to learn more about it. She also consulted Neil to find out how he felt the company could best support his needs.
Message to other employers

“We don’t view disability as an issue or a problem. Our priority is to ensure that employees have the right skillset and fit in with the company”.

Joanne Smart. HR Manager

Employee's story

So far, Neil’s job as a Software Developer has met his expectations. His job involves using programming languages to design systems that control computer functions. Neil says that the job suits his personality and his passion for numbers and computers. “I really enjoy working with numbers” says Neil, “and I love seeing the sequences and patterns in them.”
Making the most of talents and skills

Neil makes the most of his talents and skills at work and hasn’t allowed his disability to get in the way of his career. From his own personal experiences, Neil is aware that some employers view people who have long term health conditions as ‘a problem’. However, as far as his employment is concerned, Neil treats his Asperger’s Syndrome as a self-managing condition.

Neil has developed strategies to deal with situations that he finds difficult or uncomfortable. He has also learnt much from the example of his father. “My dad was a good role model” says Neil, “he had Asperger’s Syndrome and Multiple Sclerosis but worked in spite of his disabilities because he always focused on what he could do rather than what he couldn’t do.”

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