In an office setting, having Asperger’s is a deadly and toxic combination because no matter what intellectual skills you bring to the table, employers will regard you as useless and dangerous due to your lack of social skills. As soon as employers figure out that you cannot read social cues, they will make your life a living hell in a calculated attempt to induce you to quit your job. If that doesn’t work, they will simply fire you.
So therefore the best solution for people with Asperger’s is to accept the fact that you cannot work in an office with such a severe social skills deficit. Rather than forcing a person with Asperger’s into an environment where they are like a fish out of water, the answer is to help them find a skill that can enable them to work and earn a living without ever setting foot inside an office cubicle.
In this way you will allow the person with Asperger’s to not be forced to continually feel persecuted by their social skills weaknesses. Rather, you will allow them to be the person they are meant to be. You will encourage them to fully develop an intellectual skill which is so powerful that they can make a living without ever being tortured in an office setting. Parents of children with Asperger’s should not pressure their kids to pursue conventional careers that require working in an office like academia, business, investment banking, law, government jobs, and accounting. In general, any job which requires strong sales skills and extensive face-to-face contact with clients and employees will not be good for a person with Asperger’s.
What kinds of work are suitable for people with Asperger’s? Well, I can start with my own case and then broaden it from there. I can learn foreign languages very easily. I came to Brown University already fluent in Spanish, and I am gradually becoming fluent in Russian as well. Right now I can do Spanish to English document translation, and with a little more study I might be able to do English to Spanish translation as well.
Right now I am not yet sufficiently fluent in Russian to be able to translate documents from Russian into English. However, my Russian history professor told me that I might be able to do online research in archives using my knowledge of the Russian language.
So you can see from my example that foreign languages is a very good skill for a person with Asperger’s. I think parents of kids with Asperger’s should encourage their children to start learning at least one foreign language in high school. Should your child show a gift for learning foreign languages, then you should encourage your kid to first become fluent in their second language and then consider studying a third foreign language.
What foreign languages are most in demand these days? I would say Chinese because the Chinese economy seems to be taking over the world. Japanese and Korean are also useful because of the rise of Asia.
If you are not Jewish, then you can study Arabic or Persian, but due to the anti-Semitism in the field of Middle Eastern studies and the U.S. government in this area, Jews should be wary of studying these languages. So for instance the FBI would not hire Sephardic Jews to translate the documents of Arab terrorists because they had previously served in the Israeli army.
Due to my fascination with Arab and Islamic studies and also the fact that I already know Biblical Hebrew to some extent, I am planning to eventually study Arabic and Persian. I am a proud Jewish Zionist with a lot of Arab and Muslim friends. But I think Arab and Islamic studies is a hard place for a Jew for quite obvious reasons.
What other languages are in demand? French is a good language because it is a language of international diplomacy. French is also spoken in many parts of West Africa and Central Africa which are former French colonies. French and German are helpful for academic research because the majority of the scholarly literature in many academic fields such as history and religion is written in French and German.
Russian is useful if you want to learn about the republics of the former Soviet Union, obviously. Also the scholarly literature about Central Asia and the Caucasus is written in Russian.
So suppose your child with Asperger’s is not good at languages? Don’t despair. Maybe your child enjoys playing on the computer and working with technology. In this case you should help your child prepare for a career as a computer programmer or video game developer.
Math is a very good field for a person with Asperger’s. I know that the early levels of math came very easily to me. I took Algebra I in 7th grade, Algebra II in 8th grade, and geometry in 9th grade. So I was done with high school math by the end of my freshman year in high school. I also loved Calculus. I didn’t go on to the higher levels of mathematics because they require a talent for 3-D visualization which I simply do not possess.
But if your child is good at these higher levels of math, by all means encourage him or her to earn a bachelor’s degree in math. In addition, you might want to consider sending your child to earn a masters degree in quantitative methods or statistics. I know people in these fields who work in offices, but there is no reason why a person with a masters degree in quantitative methods who was developing investment ideas for a Wall Street firm would need to work in an office.
I am also good at finding long-term stock investment ideas based upon my ability to read and analyze financial statements. I am not able to find immediate or short-term investment ideas because my mind is much more oriented to long-term thinking than short-term analysis. But I suspect that other people with Asperger’s might be good at finding short-term investment ideas which are most in demand on Wall Street.
If your child is artistically inclined, Web site design and graphic design might be suitable for your child. These types of work require a tremendous amount of artistic and intellectual creativity and does not typically require a high level of social skills.
Although most marketing and advertising jobs require office work, increasingly companies are outsourcing their marketing and advertising functions. I know that I was able to do some marketing work for a wonderful Nigerian client based in England who paid me very well, and this experience makes me think that people with Asperger’s might be able to write marketing materials for both large and small companies.
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