When I visited its headquarters in Copenhagen in June, it was obvious why the company finds it useful to engage autistic consultants. Whenever cellphone makers introduce a new product, there are countless opportunities for glitches. The only way TDC can be sure of catching them is to load the software onto a phone and punch the phone keys over and over again, following a lengthy script of at least 200 instructions. The work is tedious, the information age equivalent of the assembly line, but also important and beyond the capacity of most people to perform well. “You will get bored, and then you will take shortcuts, and then it is worthless,” explained Johnni Jensen, a system technician at TDC.
Steen Iversen, a Specialsterne consultant in bluejeans and a bright red polo shirt, showed me how he tackles the task. Iversen, who is 52 and has worked at TDC for four years, laid out several phones on a desk that also held his computer, two bananas, an apple and lines of lime green Post-it notes. He picked up a phone in one hand and demonstrated his technique, his thumb landing on the buttons in quick succession. But his real advantage is mental: he is exhaustive and relentless. When a script called for sending a “long text message,” Iverson keyed in every character the phone was capable of; it crashed. Another time, he found a flaw that could have disabled a phone’s emergency dialing capability, a problem all previous testers had missed. I asked Iversen how he feels at moments like that, and he gently pumped both fists in the air with a shy smile. “I feel victorious,” he said.http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/02/magazine/the-autism-advantage.html