Friday, August 11, 2006

Send in the Idiots: Part 2

Every reader approaches books with a unique background and attitude. When I read Kamran Nazeer’s Send in the Idiots: stories from the other side of autism, I read as a mother of an autistic teenager. With this perspective, I read closely when Nazeer talked about his classmates' jobs and careers.
The young autistic adults in Nazeer’s book experience a variety of successes in the working world. Andre is a computer programmer who works in research. He is an expert in patterns and code, and works on new concepts in computers such as speech. The book doesn’t spend much time on Andre’s work, perhaps because his unique social relationships take precedence.
Randall is a bicycle messenger in a large city. His autism at times interferes with his work, but he is successful overall. For example, if anything, major or minor, is wrong with the bike, he has to stop and fix it immediately. This can put him behind on delivery deadlines. His supervisor understands this, and because Randall is an otherwise excellent employee, gives him leeway to manage this.
Craig, the child who once chanted the title phrase “Send in the idiots”, is now a political speechwriter. He excels in this field and writes for many prominent candidates. He has mastered the art of the sound bite, the 20-word debate answer, and the skills to weave policy and issues into motivational phrases that will rally an audience. This type of work is unsteady, however, and his skills in written language do not transfer into the interview setting. After a major election, Craig finds himself out of work and unable to connect with potential employers, even though he is an extremely capable writer. His social limitations present a roadblock to his professional success.
Social adeptness or lack of it can be a major factor professionally and personally. Later, I’ll post a short talk about social relationships in the book – another concern parents have for their children.
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