Observation: Asperger Syndrome

Hi, my name is Georg. I’m an Aspie (professionally assessed, not formally diagnosed). The following was created in a part-interview/part-conversation interaction with Gavin & Andy, two other team members.

Signs/observations

  • Nothing to fix
  • Lifelong condition, part of the person
  • Software/engineering attracts this type of mind (study referenced in educational resources)
  • Learn about social nauences and interactions is a skill the person is trying to learn
    • Role of SM and Agile Coach’s attractive due to the learnings
  • Not everyone is diagnosed
  • The person could be unaware of their condition
  • Self discovery of condition is a huge deal
  • Drains on an Aspie
    • Sensory Sensitivity (Hyper/Hypo)
      • Audio, visual, touch, smell, taste
      • e.g. wearing earplugs/ noise cancelling headphones when too many talking
      • E.g. touch – light/hard touch can be excruciating  
      • Can shut down in sensory overload
    • Complex Social Interactions
      • 1 – 1 = Great
      • 1 – 2 = Good
      • 1 – more = Increasingly more difficult
    • Interruptions & Sudden Change
      • Takes longer to reset
  • Slower response to emotional situations
  • Absolute focus + long sustained
  • Identify as “Aspie” & “Autistic”, other wording ‘someone with an Asperger profile’, or ‘someone with Asperger profile traits’
  • Intellectual processing of communication channels
    • Discussing a topic and having to intellectually process the visual cues body language etc. rather than intuiting them

Techniques & Tips

  • Start at the beginning
    • When working with a new team open a Team-wide conversation about Team Health.
      • What do we mean by Team Health?
      • Besides cultivating trust and resilience, what do we mean by physical wellbeing, and mental wellbeing?
      • What do we mean by mental wellbeing?
      • When exploring mental wellbeing, let’s also explore neurodiversity. (see Educational Resources)
    • As a coach you have the opportunity to go first. If you identified with any mental wellbeing and/or neurological conditions, it’s a great opportunity to normalise and overcome the taboo by being the first to share.
  • At times there may be somewhat sensitive subjects, specific to an individual. As usual, open these in private, in a relaxed environment, from a place of curiosity, not accusation.
  • Good Scrum practice is really appealing to people with an Asperger profile (Scrum events and Product Backlog Refinement as the only meetings). It’s a lightweight stable framework of meetings that leave lots of focus time.
  • People with an Asperger profile can experience overload, usually sensory overload (see drains above). Overcoming an overload is commonly accomplished through restorative solitude while managing sensory stimuli (e.g. quiet, non-fluorescent dimmed lighting).
  • Context-switching isn’t great for anybody. For people with an Asperger profile it’s even more challenging. People with an Asperger profile can keep their absolute and deep focus for a long time. After an interruption the re-focus time tends to be even higher for people with an Asperger profile.
  • Given how valuable organic team interactions are and how well knowledge distributes throughout the team by osmosis, it’s great to consider balancing this with focus time that allows people with an Asperger profile to stay in the zone for a long time. Experiment with what works for the team, e.g. half-day osmosis time, half-day focus time (noise-cancelling headphones are great for this and agreed by the team).
  • Be mindful of the team space environment. For example, Georg finds lots of background noise draining (auditory hypersensitivity), older fluorescent lights painful (visual hypersensitivity), spotlights to harsh in the cone (visual hypersensitivity).
  • Give as much notice as possible of significant structural changes (e.g. team location).

Key points

  • There’s nothing to fix, and everything to learn.
  • wip/asdf/foo
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