Autistic people prove valuable in software testing


Autistic people prove valuable in software testing

Cliff Saran

Microsoft and Computer Science Corporation are among a number of companies that are using the skills of people diagnosed with autism within their software testing processes.

The companies found that people with Autistic Spectrum Disorders have a greater attention to detail than average, making them suitable for software testing.

Both companies hired staff and testing services from Specialisterne, a Danish consultant, which employs and trains people diagnosed with ASD, to provide software testing services.

Microsoft outsourced testing on its Windows Media Centre product and some of the testing of its business software to Specialisterne. IT consultants with ASD work on software testing tasks where other people would lose concentration. "This is not corporate social responsibility. We are using the service because it is comparable to other commercial testing services," said Microsoft.

CSC has hired staff with ASD to work on-site on projects including checking documentation and exploration testing. Peter Forsting, business manager at CSC, said, "{People diagnosed with ASD] have a photographic memory and notice things that we do not normally see."

In spite of having an aptitude towards working where focus and precision are beneficial skills, people diagnosed with the condition often struggle in a work environment, said Carol Evans, director of the National Autistic Society Scotland.

But Christian Jenson, an IT consultant with ASD, who has been at Specialisterne for five months, said, "Previously, [in my last job] work was very stressful. Working here has boosted my self-esteem. I have also gained an ISEB software testing qualification."

Thorkill Sonne, founder and chief executive officer of Specialisterne, said, "People with ASD are able to take in tasks most people hate."

He said the symptoms associated with autism, such as motivation, focus, persistence, attention to detail and a high learning ability, make them good candidates for work in software testing such as test verification, configuration management and function point counting.

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