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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 January 2006, 12:33 GMT
Asperger's call to boost business
Office worker
The NAS said people with Asperger's had a lot to offer companies
Scottish companies have been encouraged to boost their business by taking on people who have Asperger's Syndrome.

People with the condition have problems with the way they communicate with and relate to others.

The National Autistic Society (NAS) said an estimated 50,000 people in Scotland have the disorder, however most are struggling to find employment.

A conference in Edinburgh has been highlighting the business case for employing people with the condition.

Robin Walker, manager of NAS employment service Prospects Scotland, said that whereas most people would see an interview as a hurdle to getting a job, people with Asperger's see it more as a "pole vault".

It's a lifelong condition so it's always going to be there
Robin Walker
National Autistic Society

Although a person with Asperger's can be more intelligent than average, their less-developed social skills can hold them back.

In contrast to autism, the condition causes no delays in language or self-help skills, other than the limited ability to interact with others.

The NAS believes social awkwardness means people with the condition often do not get the job their intellect deserves.

"It is a communication disorder," Mr Walker said. "It's a lifelong condition so it's always going to be there.

"You have a difficulty in imagining how other people might view you."

He said people with Asperger's often interpret questions in a literal way so that someone with the disorder asked to collect all the dirty cups might assume it was all of the dirty cups in the building rather than just the office.


Only one in 10 people with the condition are in full-time employment.

The NAS hopes Thursday's conference will help get those with the condition back into the jobs market and highlight their skills for businesses to tap into.

Woman at factory machine
Help is available for firms employing workers with Asperger's

David Fordyce, who has Asperger's, has worked at Glasgow's Museum of Transport for the past three years.

"Once I came here my life totally changed," he said. "I help people with their enquiries and the staff treat me the same as the rest of the team.

"I have thoroughly enjoyed every minute."

Alan Mitchell, of employers' organisation CBI Scotland, said taking on someone from a non-traditional background could appear daunting when firms are fighting to stay in business.

He said the government had to help out more.

'Highly motivated'

"You have to look very carefully at the support measures you can offer these companies," he said.

He said companies needed to be reassured that people with Asperger's would not hold them back and should be told about the help they can receive such as guidance and advice, support from specialist trainers and financial incentives.

He said this support would help companies make the transition which would allow the person with the condition to be as productive as possible.

The executive will put in place mechanisms to help those who face disadvantage in the labour market, such as individuals with Asperger's Syndrome and Autism
Scottish Executive spokesman

Mr Walker gave an example of a company in Denmark which checked mobile phone software and where almost all of the employees were on the Asperger spectrum.

"They are highly motivated people, very methodical," he said. "They will find the bugs."

"This company has chosen to use people with people on the Asperger spectrum as much as they can because its a positive asset for that kind of work."

A spokesman for the Scottish Executive said: "The executive are currently working on a framework aimed at all disadvantaged groups and will put in place mechanisms to help those who face disadvantage in the labour market, such as individuals with Asperger's Syndrome and Autism, to progress towards and into employment.

"There will be a focus on providing a flexible approach to the individual needs of clients and the nature of the support they require to find and sustain work."

Asperger's boy enters Mastermind
03 May 05 |  Scotland
'Why my autism is a gift'
29 Jul 03 |  Health


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