During a home visit our health coordinator made a comment that caused me to sit up and think. She said that there are a higher number than average of people with high functioning autistic (HFA) or Asperger's syndrome in IT jobs. These are generally highly technical jobs where they don't have to interact with others too much.
If you aren't familiar with HFA or Asperger's syndrome, here's a high-level overview http://www.webmd.com/brain/autism/high-functioning-autism. From here on I'll be referring to both of these as Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).
People with ASD’s are characterized by a triad of impairments in the following areas:
- Impairments in social interaction, including difficulties relating, sharing and forming relationships with others.
- Impairment in social communication, including difficulties interpreting and expressing verbal and non-verbal communication.
- Impairments in imagination and social understanding, including difficulties with imaginative play, pretending, planning ahead and tendency toward detail focus at expense of global understanding
Now here are the main principals of the Agile Manifesto:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- Working software over comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
- Responding to change over following a plan
It seems to me that a common sentiment within the agile community is that, people who can't collaborate within a team really shouldn't be part of a high-performing agile team. I had this view myself until recently. These people are generally talked about as crusty old programmers, with poor hygiene, who just want to sit in a basement developing software and don't want to interact with other team members.
People with ASD are generally average or above average intelligence. So my question is, as part of creating a better way of developing software have we inadvertently shunned people who aren't neuro-typical? ASD is only one disorder that could affect the functioning of a team another that comes to mind is ADHD.
I'd love to hear from your thoughts. Also if you've had a team mate or perhaps you have an ASD or ADHD yourself, I'd love to hear about your experiences.
Anyway I'm still learning about this confusing world, so feel free to correct me where I'm wrong.