Is Autism A Superpower?

‘I have Aspergers and that means I’m sometimes a bit different from the norm. And – given the right circumstances – being different is a superpower’ – Greta Thunberg

There is a lot of media and business attention on the enhanced abilities of autistic people. The BBC ran the headline Are autistic individuals the best workers around? We sought to investigate whether autistic individuals do possess superpowers and separate myth from reality.

Firstly, what is autism?

Autism is a lifelong developmental condition that affects, among other things, the way an individual relates to their environment and their interaction with other people. (Aspect)

The word ‘spectrum’ in the term ‘autism spectrum’ describes the range of difficulties that autistic people may experience and the degree to which they may be affected. The main areas of difficulty are in social communication, social interaction and restricted or repetitive behaviours and interests.

Despite these challenges autism is often associated with a range of enhanced skills or strengths including but not limited to: 

  • Sustained ConcentrationResearch indicates that autistic people have an increased ability to focus attention on certain tasks. While neurotypicals may “waste” time in some activities that appeal to them (such as activities like socialising), autistic people can concentrate for extended periods of time on a task. (Tony Attwood, The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. 2007)
  • Managing Complexity – Autistic people have a higher capacity for processing information even from rapid presentations and are better able to detect information defined as ‘critical’. Journal of Abnormal Psychology 2012. This research may help to explain the higher than average prevalence of autistic people who excel in technology careers.
  • Attention to detail – Technology giant SAP is a committed employer of autistic people. The software company expects that by 2020, autistic employees will account for 1% of its total workforce, which currently numbers about 75,600. “We find them good for software testing and quality assurance; they can concentrate for a long time on a repetitive task and spot mistakes better.” said Anka Wittenberg, SAP’s head of diversity.
  • Faster Problem Solving – It seems obvious that people who are better at sustaining concentration, managing complexity and paying attention to details can solve problems faster. That is exactly what JPMorgan Chase have discovered. JPMorgan Chase found compared to peers, the Autism at Work employees were 48 percent faster and as much as 92 percent more productive.
  •  Honesty Many people claim to value the truth, but almost all of us tell little white lies. More significantly, many neurotypical people actively hide important truths from the people around them. Autistic people, however, tell the truth—whether it’s positive or negative. That means an autistic person will accurately reflect their feelings and respond with total honesty when asked their opinion. In a recent stand up meeting at Xceptional one of our staff responded to the question, ‘Are there any barriers preventing you completing your work’ with an honest and hilarious response, ’this meeting’.
  • LoyaltyThe JPMorgan Chase Autism at Work program launched in July 2015 as a four-person pilot. Since then, it’s grown to over 140 employees in eight countries. The program boasts a 99% retention rate.

So there you have it, autistic people can possess superpowers such as Sustained Concentration, Managing Complexity, Attention to detail, Faster Problem Solving, Honesty and Loyalty.

If you want to take advantage of these superpowers Xceptional provide a range of employment solutions powered by our unique process and proprietary technology. To find out more visit


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