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"Alternative intelligence" (article on autism and the Autistan by the Belgian newspaper "The Echo")

Original article: https://www.lecho.be/entreprises/general/une-intelligence-alternative/10009078.html


An alternative intelligence

Autism, Asperger’s, high potential, neurodivergent terms to define people atypical, with one form of alternative intelligence. Skills too ignored by companies.

Speaking of “RAID” to describe the internment of people with autism in an institution or providing for a “detail of history”, referring to the temptation of eugenics that may accompany autism detection in utero, Hugo Horiot raises the tone. Just like the title of his book: “Autism, I accuse“. “It’s a pamphlet“, he assumes. A shock language to “combat the single thought“.

Himself diagnosed with autism more than 35 years ago, Horiot rises and causes to bring the voice of his own, hear people with autism or spray. Because there are many (more and more besides, thanks to better diagnosis), these atypical, to claim and defend their difference as did also, people with disabilities, homosexuals or people of color. “The approach is similar, says Horiot. There is a form of cognitive racism against our community. “It’s time for the spectrum to wake up!” 

Autism: I accuse! -C-29/03/2018

The spectrum? Increasingly recognized as a specificity of genetic type, autism can take a wide range of different shades.

To make simple, where, in early childhood, the typical brain will start to filter and prioritize the information it receives, the atypical does not and develops its connections differently. This mass of information obviously generates inconvenience and disabilities. But at the same time, atypical people also develop highly specialised skills in some areas, often inversely proportional to the behavioural disabilities.

Between the mute individual to looking away, which can suppress its swings, the silent leaking as much as possible social relationships and those who ‘only’ hypersensitivity to noise or light, we talk about the autism spectrum. About what to do for Horiot and some of his peers, the idea of an informal organization, in a nod to James Bond.

Josef Schovanec prefer the notion of Autistan. Multidiplome, speaking 7 languages, world traveler and writer, he regularly gives his “lessons of things” of his metallic and monotone voice in columns on Europe 1. “The Autistan is not a fantasy land like Peter Pan. It is a concept that brings together all our peers under the same name.” In folklore, the Autistan has its flag, blocked white and blue stripes (the color that soothes the autistic), hit a prism of 24 colors to show the diversity of the profile.

Schovanec wants to be as militant as Horiot. In another form of language, more policed, but the substance is the same. “Today’s society hardens terribly. There is much less room for the atypical. In more ancient times, there was some shepherds, hermits, handymen of genius looked at their bench without a Word. There was a place for the unusual. Today, because we are more anti-social than others, we live sometimes in very tough and very precarious conditions.


François Delcoux is “Ambassador to Autistan” in Belgium, as Hugo Horiot East in France. When we meet, the door opens before even we found the Bell. “I had heard a car I didn’t know. I knew it was you,”he said with a warm smile. The House is a permanent construction site in which to clear a passage. “This is part of the autistic condition,” acknowledges Delcoux, surviving thanks to a minimum insertion income (RMI). It also passes over the difficulties he encounters to give lectures and carry the word of people with autism. “Proud to be autistic? There is no sense. “We’re like we’re born.” Autistic and proud to be… readily caricatured expression did leap Schovanec. “Can we be proud of 1.90 m, to be blond or Belgian. These are concepts that are totally foreign to us.”

In practice

Adapt to integrate

Aspertise place its consultants directly to its customers. “This is a work of evangelization of the customers. “It’s important for the customer, and even more for the employee”, says Frédéric Vezon, founder of the computer consulting firm.

Some tips and tricks for successful integration of a person carrying on the autism spectrum.

  • The autistic knows better than anyone what suits him, he must be so, if possible, fulfill his wish.
  • The atypical person is sensitive to its environment, so it’s better to let him choose his location of work, especially in an open space. It will also let him work “in his bubble” in the proper sense, with headphones on the ears, for example, literally and figuratively.
  • To avoid unnecessary stress, we must respect his habits.
  • Regarding schedules, atypical people may be hyperpointilleuses or instead pass completely through… up to sleep at work. In general, members of the “spectrum” are not sensitive to the hierarchy. No need to feel. Telework represents a real opportunity, so use them as much as possible.
  • Finally, it will be useful to set up a contact person, who will be the first point of contact of the atypical person to solve everyday problems, without falling in the infantilization. Assistance will have to adapt to the actual needs.

To describe the operation of the autistic brain, therefore is another form of intelligence or neurodivergence from the neurotypical, supposed to represent the norm. “Autism has nothing to do with Rain Man. This character also has a totally different syndrome. We are not performing monkeys! “, says Schovanec.” But this difference gives the unusual a different perception of reality and another perspective on the problems, covering blind spots left by the neuro. “It’s pretty obvious on cybersecurity, for example. The atypical person will see the flaw that the neuro had not seen. And hackers often have a side atypical… “, remarked Frédéric Vezon, founder of Aspertise, which employs 15 atypical people in it consulting.

Skills and qualities

This is the message that want to pass the autistic activists. Force to relegate people with autism, Asperger’s and other neurodivergents in the “disabled to attend” box very normative society, we deprive skills and significant human qualities in the professional environment. Of the great creators or inventors, that have revolutionized the world, are today recognized as having autistic spectrum disorders: Nikola Tesla, Einstein, Edison, Newton...

Julie Mousty has had a particularly chaotic, interrupted schooling in middle school. What does not preclude to be passionate about the psychology of behavior. “When I’m in my books, I am able to stay there for hours, literally without lifting the nose. It’s obviously a bit complicated when you have to conform to a schedule or a social life, but suddenly I can absorb a lot of material in a short time,”she says.

It is one of the characteristics of atypical individuals: the intense on some centers of interest, sometimes very sharp or even incongruous. But this isn’t the only one.

It also points the very high accuracy and attention to detail in tasks. “You will never see an atypical add a gram too many in a recipe, this can be valuable in a sector like for example chemistry,” notes Schovanec. With as a corollary, the perfectionism that leads them to seek the last carat (“which is not necessarily going hand in hand with productivism...”, warns Delcoux). And then, it’s almost ‘ a cliché, the propensity to computing and computer programming.

Schovanec insists on other human qualities: honesty, reliability, loyalty… “We are unable to cover up or lie. Imagine a world where everyone adopts the same behavior? “It lacks perhaps some filters, but don’t would gain we not?

As many professional and human qualities theoretically very significant on the labour market. So why don’t we find not more atypical people in businesses?


“How do you win or don’t integrate into society when we don’t have the basic knowledge, regardless of intelligence”, protests Schovanec. The problem therefore begins with education.

François Delcoux, “Ambassador to Autistan in Belgium”. Behind a bit of folklore, an activist in the cause of autism.

As Julie Mousty, François Delcoux has followed a complicated in general education tuition. “When I did a presentation very documented on the dinosaurs in the 1st primary, the teacher told my parents because I was too rich and too learned vocabulary for my age. It was the beginning of the ridicule and rejection by my classmates,”says Delcoux.

Little girl, I have been described as psychologically stupid.” My mother has struggled to keep me in general education. Delay in stall, I ended up leaving school for medical reasons in 2esecondaire”, Mansfield said.

The difficulty of integration so start from the youngest age, because education is not always suitable. learning, when it is possible, is so alone based on interests, generating specializations to excess and gaping gaps. A self learning, whereas most autistic people show an IQ below average. “Unless that conventional IQ tests have not adapted to our intelligence…“, see Horiot.

“There is a wide divergence of approach on how to integrate different people in education. The Italy practice fully inclusive education; in Belgium, Hasselt is quite advanced in this area. But it varies very strong of a region or even from one city to the other,”notes Schovanec.

Horiot is more virulent in its analysis. For him, (the offering) institutionalization of atypical individuals is a gigantic market. “Not in the sense the term marketing, where the atypical would be a target, but because audience that this support, which is not always necessary, generates social benefits and thus a huge financial interest!

Social galley

In fact, the typical adult, it’s often the galley and dependence on social allowances. François Delcoux, which boasts a RMI, is struggling for weeks to get a paid job in the ASBL “Autism in action”, but it gets stuck at the administrative level. “I hope that this has nothing to do with my state of autistic!

“Our life? It’s a total mess! You take it to the day the day.” J
lie Mansfield

Julie Mousty depends on the mutual as disabled, her husband is unemployed. “Our life… It’s a total mess! We take her to the day the day. It has to be very precarious. Our goal is not to remain dependent on a system.” At age 28, Julie Mousty comes to retake courses to pass his CESS then consider University in psychology with a specialization in behavioural problems, his favorite subject.

How to monetize its intense? This is the crucial question that arises in an autistic who wants to work. “This doesn’t help no doubt hope employment for all. This is simply not always possible, but it’s still the best way to integrate into the typical company. To have a status in this society. Things are moving but for some more sociabilises profiles. It’s even harder for others,“says Schovanec with some bitterness. As the mockery that it was already in school often turn into harassment in the world of work. Julie Mousty made the cruel experience.

Silicon Valley

A forerunner in this area, the Silicon Valley more specifically targets this type of profiles. According to Tony Attwood, psychologist specialist, quoted by Horiot, Silicon Valley would be nearly 50% of people with autism or Asperger’s among its engineers. Normal, estimated Frédéric Vezon: “Silicon Valley has largely been created by autistic profiles.” Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg are often described as individuals on the autism spectrum. Most Silicon Valley companies have broken the hierarchical and very formatted company, model in which the atypical don’t feel well.

In Israel, the army also recruits the spectrum profiles, for the analysis of data including and some universities encourage autistic intelligence. There is indeed a surge in the number of atypical in companies that realize their potential. “And this concerns only the early adopters. “We’re in a second phase,” notes the consultant. A still very relative since surge in France 1% of the 400,000 autistic adults work.


Here, a quick overview of ads and job offers gives an idea of the reality on the ground: only two ads on nearly a hundred point the autistic character in the criteria for selection of candidates.

Diagnosed with Asperger’s in the wake of the diagnosis of her son, Frédéric Vezon is a “serial entrepreneur” in France and the Canada. With the support of an investment fund he launched a few months ago a consulting firm that employs today about 15 people all atypical. The company specializes in artificial intelligence, big data or cyber security, as many branches where the expertise of atypical is almost a cliché. “Our customers are part of the CAC 40. “And the number of our consultants should double or triple in the year as demand is high“, rejoices Vezon. Other companies of this type are emerging on both sides of the Atlantic.

In Belgium, Antwerp society Paaswerk is based on the same model of consultancy. Its consultants have worked on the development of the porticoes of the Stib security. Paaswerk leads for now a recruitment mission for security officers specialized in screening by x-ray.


But, admittedly, autism, more probably than other disabilities, scares in the company. “One has the feeling that for people with reduced mobility, we know what to do to facilitate their integration. Mental or psychological disability impresses much more, as if it were potentially dangerous”, notes Horiot.

And as for education, the main obstacle to hiring people neurodivergentes is the basis: how to find them? There is no database coupled with specific skills.

“We think differently, it doesn’t have us performing monkeys.”

Josef Schovanec

“The scheme of recruitment classic, ad-CV-maintenance, does not suit us. He must find another path,“says Schovanec. A specific recruitment for profiles of the spectrum at Microsoft proved a failure due to lack of candidates, reminds Vezon. “The interview process, it’s a lame con game: we measure social skills and not their actual capabilities”, hammers Delcoux.

Has been said, the autistic a few filters, his speech is rather cash and it can hide. Difficult in these conditions to succeed in an interview where he must present themselves in the best light, even embellish things. “We can not rely on a sense of competition of autistic people to put themselves forward. We have, most of the time, not aware of our performance or feelings of pride. Why become a manager? Why make more money? “, asks Schovanec.” “A candidate consultant cybersecurity has proved a formidable expert in bolckchain; He had ranked this skill among his hobbies… “, remembers Vezon.

Social networks

In a society more and more connected and said to be also more autistic in the measure where each folds in on itself, the atypical might find more their place. Communication networks give them in any case of complementary tools. “E-mail, Skype or social networks offer new prospects to those of us for whom direct verbal communication is a problem, acknowledges Schovanec. But if you are able or have learned to write an e-mail.” These tools allow more telework to atypical individuals, avoid having to face public transport, noise, promiscuity and the changing environment. All factors of stress and disruption. “Internet is people with autism what is the sign language to deaf people,” says Hugo Horiot, which relays the rumor that Wikipedia is largely controlled and managed by the autistic.

As for social networks, and Facebook in particular, our witnesses remain circumspect. “Even if it was created by Zuckerberg to solve some problems of communication, it must be acknowledged that today ‘ today, the network became a narcissistic tool in which we ourselves not at all”, concludes Schovanec.

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