Is higher education worth it for people with Asperger syndrome? Watch

FakeNewsEditor
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(Original post by Kill3rCat)
Sure, but like I said, often you'll still have to co-operate with other researchers. Social skills are never entirely removed from the equation. And while promotion may not be, actually getting employed in the first place often is, taking into account both your qualifications and 'soft skills'.

And besides, not everyone wants to get a job as a researcher. Anyway, the OP's question was about whether higher education was viable in the context of employment. I quote:
Univeristies will hire you on the basis of how cited your work is, where you've published it (journals are ranked so everyone knows how good your work is depending on where it was published), how many books you've published and at which publishing houses.

They won't really care about your soft skills. In fact, plenty of universities have people with asperger's in them and the people who do the hiring, namely, other professors know this pretty well. If they care about the prestige of their institution, the funding they will get, essentially how much money the uni makes, they will hire you, not someone with lesser academic papers but better social skills.
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Kill3rCat
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(Original post by FakeNewsEditor)
Univeristies will hire you on the basis of how cited your work is, where you've published it (journals are ranked so everyone knows how good your work is depending on where it was published), how many books you've published and at which publishing houses.

They won't really care about your soft skills. In fact, plenty of universities have people with asperger's in them and the people who do the hiring, namely, other professors know this pretty well. If they care about the prestige of their institution, the funding they will get, essentially how much money the uni makes, they will hire you, not someone with lesser academic papers but better social skills.
That rather requires that you get hired in the first place, in which case, they will care about your soft skills. Not to the extent that they'd hire someone with better soft skills but worse credentials, but rather, amongst two equally qualified applicants, the chap with better soft skills is more likely to be hired. And, like I said, most people who go into higher education are not doing so with the goal of becoming a researcher.
Last edited by Kill3rCat; 1 week ago
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FakeNewsEditor
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(Original post by Kill3rCat)
That rather requires that you get hired in the first place. And, like I said, most people who go into higher education are not doing so with the goal of becoming a researcher.
How's that relevant? The only thing I said was that the OP should consider academia or a research job in general (not all research is done at unis). It doesn't matter what other people do.

And again, I don't think one needs social skills in order to be hired as at a university either as a professor or a researcher of sorts. For STEM fields, I've known a guy who barely speaks English and washired because he was so brilliant at maths. Plenty of people here have had lecturers at university who speak broken English and can't even communicate effectively (STEM ofc).
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Kill3rCat
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(Original post by FakeNewsEditor)
How's that relevant? The only thing I said was that the OP should consider academia or a research job in general (not all research is done at unis). It doesn't matter what other people do.

And again, I don't think one needs social skills in order to be hired as at a university either as a professor or a researcher of sorts. For STEM fields, I've known a guy who barely speaks English and washired because he was so brilliant at maths. Plenty of people here have had lecturers at university who speak broken English and can't even communicate effectively (STEM ofc).
It's relevant because you're only considering one field. Soft skills matter less in research jobs, agreed. My point was that they still do matter, just to a lesser extent, and that not everyone wants to get a job in academia. And, by the way, I never took issue with you recommending the OP partake in STEM. My issue was with all the folk saying 'oh, don't be silly, there's nothing wrong with you, you can do anything' because it's a blatant denial of reality.

I don't have the energy to continue this; we're not really going anywhere, probably because we may have missed what the other was saying, and it's not a topic I am particularly interested in anyhow.
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Arran90
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#25
(Original post by Kill3rCat)
All of the responses to this thread seem to be largely missing the OP's point. Many people with ASD often find social interaction difficult, even though they may be intelligent and academically gifted. This doesn't necessarily mean they will find it difficult to start and continue a mundane conversation with another person, but rather it means they may lack tact, empathy and have problems with things such as predicting other people's behaviour, or finding the right thing to say in any given situation. They may not be particularly talented at navigating the minefield that is the peculiarities of human social protocol, or constructing a useful model of other people's behaviour and using that model to help them in social situations or predict behaviour. In short, they often lack social skills.
They have completely missed the point, and the factors in post #4.

Even job interview and selection procedures are now designed in a way to weed out applicants with weak social skills in areas such as tact, diplomacy, empathy, being able to make very quick decisions, leadership ability, and multitasking.

I acknowledge this is not universally true, and there are autistic people who are only mildly afflicted, and thus are not significantly inhibited in social interaction, however, the vast majority of autistic people do have at least slight difficulty with social interaction, with this difficulty being more pronounced amongst those with more severe autism.
This discussion is about Asperger syndrome and assumes the individuals are of reasonably high academic ability and have no speech or language delays. It does not cover the entire autism spectrum or people with more severe variants of autism.
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Arran90
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(Original post by FakeNewsEditor)
They can make excellent academics. Academia is pretty much excelling in a very narrow field of specialisation. So, consider a PhD.
If you can manage to land an academic position, and it's not easy.

I know someone with Asperger syndrome who has a PhD in mechanical engineering. He had a reasonably good career in industry until 2009 when he was laid off due to cutbacks. Since then he has never managed to obtain a proper engineering job and now works in a car body shop. Many a time he has applied to academic positions without an ounce of success.

One tip of advice he gives to kids (and their parents) is to ensure that they are good with their hands as well as their brain. This is despite school being almost all brain and no hands, yet so many mid-range jobs out there require people who are good with their hands. He believes the fact that he was always practical and hands on as a child (to the dismay of his parents and teachers) was his saving grace from an unskilled job in retail or the service sector.
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Arran90
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(Original post by Jackudy3)
As someone with ASD, I'd argue that higher education is worth it because without obtaining that degree you'd only be putting yourself at an even further disadvantage against other "ordinary" graduates, because now not only would they have a superior array of soft skills but higher qualifications than you to boot. Not getting a degree purely because you have ASD is a horrible idea, as it's essentially admitting defeat before you have even tried (not suggesting there aren't other routes than a degree, but you get my point).
I make my point again that if there is an oversupply of graduates then employers will be more inclined to make decisions over superior soft skills. Hardly any employers worried about soft skills with graduates back in the 1980s and 90s, unless it was a role that clearly required advanced soft skills, so long as the applicant was generally pleasant and polite. Only after 2000ish when the number of graduates had risen faster than the number of graduate jobs did employers start obsessing over soft skills.

Sure, you might lose out on a couple of jobs that you would otherwise have obtained if you had the soft skills to sell yourself for them, but in careers such as technology (one that ASD sufferers are renowned for going into), it's almost expected of any graduate to be a bit introverted, and if you try hard enough and really put yourself out there getting that job can still be done.
There are still opportunities but as an industry insider I will tell you that an increasing number of technology, engineering, and computing jobs require an increasing amount of soft skills. A large number of hard skills jobs have 'died' or have been outsourced and offshored to low wage countries.

Once you're in a graduate job, your CV will speak for itself from that point onwards. This will make it easier to get employed based on what you have delivered in past roles as opposed to a chat with an employer by way of an interview fresh out of uni, with only some letters and numbers behind you just like everybody else.
If you can get your foot in the door in the first place…

There are countless STEM graduates without Asperger syndrome that never manage to land a graduate job or one related to what they studied by the age of 30 and by then their degree is mouldy.
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Tootles
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(Original post by Arran90)
Is higher education worthwhile for people with Asperger syndrome or would it be better for them to get a few GCSEs / Level 2 qualifications and start work in a basic job instead?
Higher education is always worthwhile.

(Original post by yoursunshinexx)
YES IT IS!!
Don't let an 'illness' stop you from continuing on higher studies. You can fight it and succeed and prove anyone who's ever said you can't wrong.
YOU can do it and I believe in you.
Thus spake the fount of all wisdom concerning autism.

  1. Asperger's is not an "illness". One who has it is not ill, they are simply autistic, and autism is a condition, not an illness.
  2. You can't fight autism. Fighting autism is like fighting one's need for air. You roll with it, use it to your advantage.
  3. Aspies have nothing to prove, least of all to people who said "you can't". They are beyond irrelevant. Aspies work for the fun of itself, and while many don't become rich or famous, those who learn to accept the condition and work with it rather than against it can know happiness.
  4. "You can do it" is the single most pathetic platitude ever devised. In future, kindly refrain from speaking on matters of which you are ignorant.

Source: formally diagnosed autistic/AS, and a lifetime of being surrounded by idiots.
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squeakysquirrel
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(Original post by Arran90)
I'm asking the question from the perspective of employment and careers rather than acquiring a piece of paper with a grade on it.

Just because a person is excellent when it comes to mathematics, biochemistry, history of the Aztecs etc. doesn't in any way imply that they are excellent material for life in the world of corporate Britain. There's really no point spending time, money, and effort on higher education if you find out that you can do almost nothing with it in the real world unless all you care about is displaying your certificate on the wall.

There has been a discussion about the matter in home education communities. Points raised include:

Although exact figures do not exist (and many published figures cover ALL types of autistic spectrum disorders) there is certainly evidence that unemployment and underemployment is significantly higher for people with Asperger syndrome than it is for people without Asperger syndrome that hold comparable qualifications.

There is anecdotal evidence that people with Asperger syndrome tend to end up in positions that are more junior or with a lower level of responsibility and fewer opportunities to use their knowledge and skills than people without Asperger syndrome in the same organisation. They also have a greater tendency to be passed over for promotion whilst their colleagues without Asperger syndrome with a lower level of qualifications and knowledge / hard skills end up getting promoted to more senior positions.

There is a massive glut of graduates in almost all disciplines, even STEM.

As a result of there being a glut of graduates, employers are commonly using soft skills as a prominent deciding factor of who should be hired. This puts people with Asperger syndrome at a huge disadvantage.
Yes yes and yes again. My daughter has Aspergers and is currently doing a PhD. I think sciencey subjects may appeal to them more as they are analytical.

I remember seeing some tech company only employed autistic people as they were better at the job - seeing patterns etc.
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Tootles
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(Original post by Arran90)
I'm asking the question from the perspective of employment and careers rather than acquiring a piece of paper with a grade on it.

Just because a person is excellent when it comes to mathematics, biochemistry, history of the Aztecs etc. doesn't in any way imply that they are excellent material for life in the world of corporate Britain. There's really no point spending time, money, and effort on higher education if you find out that you can do almost nothing with it in the real world unless all you care about is displaying your certificate on the wall.

There has been a discussion about the matter in home education communities. Points raised include:

Although exact figures do not exist (and many published figures cover ALL types of autistic spectrum disorders) there is certainly evidence that unemployment and underemployment is significantly higher for people with Asperger syndrome than it is for people without Asperger syndrome that hold comparable qualifications.

There is anecdotal evidence that people with Asperger syndrome tend to end up in positions that are more junior or with a lower level of responsibility and fewer opportunities to use their knowledge and skills than people without Asperger syndrome in the same organisation. They also have a greater tendency to be passed over for promotion whilst their colleagues without Asperger syndrome with a lower level of qualifications and knowledge / hard skills end up getting promoted to more senior positions.

There is a massive glut of graduates in almost all disciplines, even STEM.

As a result of there being a glut of graduates, employers are commonly using soft skills as a prominent deciding factor of who should be hired. This puts people with Asperger syndrome at a huge disadvantage.
The main issue is that many (though not all) aspies have a profound lack of social skills*. For instance I'm an aspie and, while I'm very intelligent (or so they tell me) and am well-qualified and have an array of different skillsets, my interpersonal/social skills are so weak that I always crap out in interviews. Though I've found I'm very competant in a classroom and am thus starting an MA (in a different subject to my honours degree) with a view to eventually teaching, either in school or sixth form.

With graduates in general, the problem is how oversold higher education is. We're getting to the point where you need a 2:1 to be a toilet attendant, and they're handing degrees out like confetti; they don't mean anything like as much as they used to, so having one on your CV is more a "so what" than anything else.


* While social skills can be learned, many of us find it difficult to go out and do that in the first place.
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Arran90
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(Original post by Tootles)
Higher education is always worthwhile.
At over £9000 a year it has been mentioned numerous times in the home education community that university is really only worthwhile as a financial investment, where a degree clearly pays for itself, and that high tuition fees have killed the concept of a liberal education.

There has also been discussion that apprenticeships, vocational FE courses, and good old fashioned work experience are a better choice than a degree unless a degree is clearly required for a career such as medicine.

An interesting suggestion should be that people with Asperger syndrome should study management - not to become managers but in order to better understand how managers think and act.
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Jackudy3
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(Original post by Arran90)
There are still opportunities but as an industry insider I will tell you that an increasing number of technology, engineering, and computing jobs require an increasing amount of soft skills. A large number of hard skills jobs have 'died' or have been outsourced and offshored to low wage countries.
I'm also an industry insider, as a matter of fact I'm working a post A-levels summer job right now in the tech offices of a top bookmaker in the UK and loving every minute.

I agree with your point that soft skills are becoming more expected in technology (and other fields, I'm using it as an example), disappearing are the days of nerds clustered in a room eating pizza working on the first release of MS DOS in Emacs. However, this isn't to say that ASD sufferers are completely inept at communicating; once you're through the door and working the job, you will be judged purely on what you deliver, and no matter how much ability to communicate someone with ASD may be lacking they are fully capable of getting across these important points either by verbal or (the usually preferred method of sufferers) nonverbal means.

Trust me, if I went ahead and told my employer that having not even started my degree I'd gone ahead and written them a full polynomial regression machine learning algorithm that would predict the volume of bets in a given time period, perhaps on Grand National day, and that they could use this to predict server load and the like accordingly, they would be impressed irrespective of how well I could sell it to them. This is because the people there are all techies and don't need you to do this for the most part.

Even in terms of a management position, provided a sufferer has the underlying technical knowledge around everything members of their team are doing, they would still be fully competent as they could distribute and manage tasks accordingly (this has nothing to do with soft skills). An issue might arise for example if a presentation was required, but people are impressed by what you deliver not how you present it, in other words your impact on the business and how much you are helping fellow employees with your work. If all else fails, you could delegate the presentation to somebody else on your team, or simply force your way through it (probably wouldn't be too pretty, but you'd get the key message across, note that it's about increasing revenue/streamlining processes to save time/stopping revenue decrease for the business not a perfect sales pitch).

I suppose what I'm getting at is that it presents some challenges, but these are essentially just quirks and easily overlooked provided you are living up to your job description and delivering results. The interview is hands down the worst part for an ASD sufferer.
Last edited by Jackudy3; 1 week ago
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Jackudy3
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Just a bit of a separate point, I feel like what suffers most as a result of having ASD is your relationships with colleagues. Navigating the complex social environment in an office for example is what I find by far the most difficult.

This could lead to you not feeling included (because you're not, you struggle to socialise so whilst everyone else seems to be one group, you're out on your own), which ultimately has knock ons for your career because it's easy for the group to criticise or blame the individual, plus when you're on your own you are less likely to produce your best work due to diminishing motivation or not feeling valued. This is not, by the way, from personal experience but I could 100% see this happening as I've had this similar theme recur all my life in different environments.

That's my two cents.
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WarwickMaths281
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Autists often struggle to find jobs after graduating no matter how well they did in their degree, as they lack the social skills to get through the initial interview. Hence they would be better off doing an apprenticeship where they are able to learn the soft skills as they go along.
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WarwickMaths281
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(Original post by FakeNewsEditor)
You need no social skills to excel as an academic or researcher.
Why on Earth not? A large part of an academic's job is standing in front of hundreds of 18 year olds and delivering lectures. Surely social and communication skills are one of the main qualities that an academic must possess?
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OhGod
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(Original post by Arran90)
I'm asking the question from the perspective of employment and careers rather than acquiring a piece of paper with a grade on it.

Just because a person is excellent when it comes to mathematics, biochemistry, history of the Aztecs etc. doesn't in any way imply that they are excellent material for life in the world of corporate Britain. There's really no point spending time, money, and effort on higher education if you find out that you can do almost nothing with it in the real world unless all you care about is displaying your certificate on the wall.

There has been a discussion about the matter in home education communities. Points raised include:

Although exact figures do not exist (and many published figures cover ALL types of autistic spectrum disorders) there is certainly evidence that unemployment and underemployment is significantly higher for people with Asperger syndrome than it is for people without Asperger syndrome that hold comparable qualifications.

There is anecdotal evidence that people with Asperger syndrome tend to end up in positions that are more junior or with a lower level of responsibility and fewer opportunities to use their knowledge and skills than people without Asperger syndrome in the same organisation. They also have a greater tendency to be passed over for promotion whilst their colleagues without Asperger syndrome with a lower level of qualifications and knowledge / hard skills end up getting promoted to more senior positions.

There is a massive glut of graduates in almost all disciplines, even STEM.

As a result of there being a glut of graduates, employers are commonly using soft skills as a prominent deciding factor of who should be hired. This puts people with Asperger syndrome at a huge disadvantage.
I have traits of ASD and to say that everyone is good at STEM maths and niche subjects is wrong. I personally am really good at the creative subjects.
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ltsmith
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(Original post by Arran90)
I'm asking the question from the perspective of employment and careers rather than acquiring a piece of paper with a grade on it.

Just because a person is excellent when it comes to mathematics, biochemistry, history of the Aztecs etc. doesn't in any way imply that they are excellent material for life in the world of corporate Britain. There's really no point spending time, money, and effort on higher education if you find out that you can do almost nothing with it in the real world unless all you care about is displaying your certificate on the wall.

There has been a discussion about the matter in home education communities. Points raised include:

Although exact figures do not exist (and many published figures cover ALL types of autistic spectrum disorders) there is certainly evidence that unemployment and underemployment is significantly higher for people with Asperger syndrome than it is for people without Asperger syndrome that hold comparable qualifications.

There is anecdotal evidence that people with Asperger syndrome tend to end up in positions that are more junior or with a lower level of responsibility and fewer opportunities to use their knowledge and skills than people without Asperger syndrome in the same organisation. They also have a greater tendency to be passed over for promotion whilst their colleagues without Asperger syndrome with a lower level of qualifications and knowledge / hard skills end up getting promoted to more senior positions.

There is a massive glut of graduates in almost all disciplines, even STEM.

As a result of there being a glut of graduates, employers are commonly using soft skills as a prominent deciding factor of who should be hired. This puts people with Asperger syndrome at a huge disadvantage.
I know a few people with Aspergers and you wouldn't know they had it unless they told you. if they get social skills training their quirks can be hidden and they will appear very normal.
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