Autistic Techies of the NYC Area
Autistic Techies of the NYC Area (ATNYCA) is a group for autistic and similarly neurodivergent people who work, or aspire to work, in technical fields, including but not limited to engineers, programmers, system administrators, and computer/electronics technicians.
Initially we will be just a small, informal, specialized peer support group, plus some web pages providing lists of resources. But we plan to become much more than that, and we'll eventually become much more organized and formal.
As we grow, we will be on the lookout for ways we can help our members advance their careers.
One of these ways might be to facilitate the creation of teams of programmers and aspiring programmers to work on Free/Libre Open Source Software projects together. Open-source programming, though unpaid, is considered to be an excellent bridge to paid employment these days. (To improve their ability to work together as programmers, members of the proposed open-source teams could also work together on developing autistic-friendly social skills.) For some projects, the teams might include a sysadmin, a database admin, and/or a computer technician, as well as programmers.
At some point ATNYCA will likely encourage the formation of an "allistic auxiliary" group of families and friends of ATNYCA members, to help us with the social, administrative, and public outreach aspects of some of our more ambitious goals mentioned below.
Eventually we hope to facilitate the creation of autistic-friendly workplaces for programmers and engineers (beyond the few that already exist). Although programming and engineering are stereotypically autistic careers to begin with, they have nevertheless become less and less autistic-friendly over the past few decades, requiring more and more social interaction and "excellent communication skills," and requiring longer work hours. Worst of all is the "open office" floor plan fad, which has created an office environment that is way too distracting even for many NT's, and all the more so for many autistic people.
Recently the COVID crisis has caused many companies to make a sudden change to work-from-home. It remains to be seen how many tech companies will continue to allow work-from-home after we all get vaccinated. However, even if work-from-home continues to be allowed and popular after the COVID era, many of us will still have trouble with the social aspects of fitting in with most of today's tech companies. So there will still be a need for workplaces specifically designed to be autistic-friendly.
Some large mainstream tech companies, such as those listed here, have made a specific point of recruiting and creating programs for autistic employees. We hope to encourage other large tech companies to do likewise. But, while this would be a big step forward, there still will likely not be enough such jobs for all of us at mainstream tech companies. Large-company neurodiversity hiring programs tend to be limited to only a few of the company's many locations -- which in most cases do NOT include their NYC-area locations, alas.
For many of us, the biggest hurdle is the process of seeking a job in the first place. Many of us have extreme difficulty with things that are generally considered essential to making a good impression on a job interview, such as eye contact. Some of us just can't pass a job interview even for a job for which, by every other measure, we might provably be the single most qualifed person in the entire world (e.g. the inventor of the required technology). And the whole process of job-seeking, at least via the usual channels, is extremely stressful even for NT's, and all the more unbearably so for many autistic people.
Hence, for some of us, the only reasonable solution is to create small cooperative businesses that seek clients as a team rather than as individuals, perhaps with help from an NT relative or friend of one of the team members who could handle most of the sales/marketing stuff. (One of the ways such a team might form is by working together on open-source projects, as mentioned above, before seeking paying clients together.)
It might also be desirable for some of us to create a marketplace website similar to the various freelance job-posting websites out there, except that small teams, rather than individual freelancers, would compete for clients. (There used to be a website called "elance," on which teams, as well as individual freelancers, could find jobs, but it no longer exists.)
Ideally we might eventually be able to start a trend in the labor market as a whole, in favor of hiring teams rather than individuals. This would not only be good for autistic people; it would also be good for the many people (e.g. women trying to escape from abusive relationships) whose privacy has been violated by the current near-mandatoriness of revealing loads and loads of personal info on LinkedIn -- a site which (together with Facebook) has exposed all too many ordinary people to all of the hazards, but none of the perks, of being a movie star.
What we're doing now
For now we're just a small specialized peer support group. During the remainder of the COVID crisis, we will hold chat meetings (text-based) only.
After the COVID crisis, we will occasionally attend some in-person events together, such as those held by New York Tech Meetup, and we will occasionally meet over dinner at a diner or restaurant, but our regular meetings will still be mostly chat meetings, for convenience.
At least for now, our chat meetings will be held on the fourth Monday of each month. Please RSVP via Meetup. (Currently we use the Meetup site of the Queens discussion group. Eventually a separate Meetup site will be created for the Autistic NYC career-oriented groups, including this one.)
Queens discussion group: Autistic adult peer support and self-help group that currently meets in online chat (text-based) and will eventually meet in-person again after the COVID crisis.
Where to get an ASD evaluation as an adult: This page will be expanded and updated sometime after the COVID crisis is over with.