Living with Autism as a Developer
Oliver Sarfas • April 26, 2023programming laravel
What is Autism?
Autism UK defines autism as:
...a lifelong developmental disability which affects how people communicate and interact with the world. More than one in 100 people are on the autism spectrum and there are around 700,000 autistic adults and children in the UK...
However, as more research is done and awareness of the spectral condition is raised - this definition changes and we understand more about those affected.
Those with ASD will have their own experiences of the condition, and it can be difficult to generalise. However, there are some common traits that are often associated with ASD. These include:
- Difficulty with
- Social Interaction
- Understanding and interpreting social cues
- Sensory sensitivity
- Repetitive behaviour
- Routines and rituals
- Time driven behaviour
- Masking / Social Camouflage
Personal Discovery of ASD
I first had an inkling that I might be on the spectrum when my son was diagnosed with ASD at the age of 3. He's a non-verbal ASD child with a lot of sensory and behavioural issues.
I'd already been doing a lot of research into the condition due to Elliot, thus I was aware of the traits and behaviours associated with ASD. I'd also been aware of my own difficulties with social interaction and communication, and I'd been masking for years; entirely without my knowledge / active consideration.
There had been times in my history (often at work, during meetings, or during social engagements) where colleagues had mentioned that I said something that sounded very direct, or even rude. I'd always been confused by this, as I'd never intended to be rude or direct. I'd always been very careful to be polite and considerate, and I'd always been very aware of the social norms and expectations of the situation. To the point where I consider myself to have a few unwritten rules that I abide to when interacting with people.
This ruleset wasn't something I was really aware of until I was looking into ASD for my son. It turns out that the term for this ruleset was masking and I've been doing it for years. Doing it so well that I'd fooled myself into thinking that I was "normal" and that everyone around me had this same solution to social and interpersonal situations.
I began opening up conversation with others around my life, and how they'd noticed this before but never mentioned it because "that's just how you are, it's you". Further conversation with a few of the medical and psychological professionals that I'd been working with for my son, and I was confirmed to had ASD.
Impact on Daily Work and Life
Due to the fact I've lived with my ASD for over 30 years now (though subconsciously), there's a lot of things that I hadn't realised I do to integrate into society, work, and general life.
A few that are often mentioned to me are;
- Plan and "diarise" all my work days
- This includes all meetings, tasks, and even breaks
- Changes to this schedule can often overwhelm me
- All my work is done in a very specific order
- If working on a project brief for a client, I'll always write out my headings, sub-headings and core structure before filling in the body of the text
- Working on code can be similar, I'll often write out the structure of the code in pseudo-code before filling in the actual code
- Struggle to deal with change
- This can be a change in routine, a change in plans, or even a change in the way I'm working
- I'll often need time to process the change and adjust my plans accordingly.
- Being pulled/juggling between 1 project to another can cause a mental overload to me, so I always schedule in a few hours between projects to "reset my head" and realign my processes with the needs of the new project
- "Zone Out" when working / Hyper-focus
- I'll often get so focused on a task that I'll lose track of time and my surroundings
- There have been instances where colleagues have been talking to me, and I've not heard them at all or even noticed that they were stood at my desk
There are a few other little things that I do but they're not as impactful nor need as much consideration as the above.
Most / all of the above are done without thought or intention either, it's just a habit that I've either learned through my years or a symptom of my ASD.
Awareness and Learning
There's been a lot more work done recently to raise awareness of ASD, it's impacts on those with it and the family / support network(s) around them. This is all great stuff, and I welcome it wholeheartedly.
My sister recently ran the London Marathon for the National Autistic Society and raised over £1,200 for the charity. You can donate to her page (here)[https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Amy-Sarfas].
If you'd like to discuss ASD, or have any questions about it, please feel free to reach out to me on using the contact page