Asperger's and aptitude for programming

Page 1 of 1 [ 4 posts ] 

CrinklyCrustacean
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 22 Mar 2009
Age: 35
Gender: Male
Posts: 1,284

04 Apr 2011, 7:34 am

Back in January, while on holiday, my brother said that he was surprised I'd never tried my hand at programming a PC (the little I have done was on a BBC micro, using BASIC, when I was much younger). I asked him why, other than the fact that it is the stereotypical aspie job, and he said that it's because I think like a computer. :lol: He also said I tend to ask the right sort of questions. Well, mainly my objections come down to the fact I don't think I'd be very good at it. Here's why:

1) I like rules, as long as they make sense. Working with rules that don't make sense is frustrating, so I am put off learning a language in case I am limited by rules which are nonsensical. Even if the language is really useful, if it doesn't make sense then learning it and using it could be a real nightmare.

2) I don't have the greatest imagination. When I was very young I loved trying to invent things, but I don't see myself as the guy who is suddenly inspired with the brilliant solution to some big programming problem.

3) I like people and socialising. While there have definitely been times when I have plugged away at the same problem for hours on end, at once both frustrated by the problem at hand and yet fascinated and addicted to finding a solution, I do need 'downtime' both by myself and with other people.

4) I am already 27. Although people say I both look and come across as 21, any IT job is going to take account of my physical age, plus the fact I don't have an IT qualification (I did a music degree). If I get an IT qualification, I will be older at the end of it and that will shorten any career I have.

5) It seems that many people recommend IT as the ideal job for aspies because it doesn't require social interaction and it does require a keen, almost obsessive, focus. I tend to go through phases where I'm intensly interested in one thing for a while and then something else.

6) I have mild asperger's. Again, it seems that the aspies in the IT industry are more severely affected than I am, which makes me wonder if the ability to do the job might not be proportional to the severity of the condition (yes I know there are bright NTs who are also very adept with computers). Oddly, though, my brother gave me a relatively simple computing problem to see how I tackled it mentally, and he said that the assumptions and questions I thought were obvious right at the start were things which others would take ages to work out for themselves.

So, at the end of that rambling post, do you think my brother might have a point, or is my self-doubt well-founded? In addition, is an aspie's skill with computers proportional to the severity of their condition?



FJP
Sea Gull
Sea Gull

User avatar

Joined: 1 Jul 2010
Age: 44
Gender: Male
Posts: 228
Location: Northern Michigan

04 Apr 2011, 9:34 am

You should investigate it and see if you enjoy programming.

I have been an electronics hobbiest for over 20 years and much of the hobby has gone into programming microcontrollers. (basically a simple computer on a chip or board). If the stereotype of aspies and programming holds true you would think that I would be great at this, but I have no aptitude for programming at all. It seems to abstract for me. I need physical things I can see and measure. I have a friend who is a (very successful) progammer ( and probably on the spectrum somewhere) he has absolutely no ability for "hardware". I honestly don't think he would know how to use a screwdriver.
We are both very specific in our talents and interest.



Meggo
Yellow-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Woodpecker

User avatar

Joined: 1 Dec 2010
Age: 36
Gender: Female
Posts: 56

20 Apr 2011, 8:01 am

I started out going to school for Computer Science. I quit and changed to English after three years, because I'm not good at math and there was a lot of it in the higher courses. Every Aspie is different. Try it and see if you enjoy it.



Foxx
Deinonychus
Deinonychus

User avatar

Joined: 14 Nov 2010
Age: 32
Gender: Male
Posts: 328

27 Apr 2011, 11:20 pm

CrinklyCrustacean wrote:
Back in January, while on holiday, my brother said that he was surprised I'd never tried my hand at programming a PC (the little I have done was on a BBC micro, using BASIC, when I was much younger). I asked him why, other than the fact that it is the stereotypical aspie job, and he said that it's because I think like a computer. :lol: He also said I tend to ask the right sort of questions. Well, mainly my objections come down to the fact I don't think I'd be very good at it. Here's why:

1) I like rules, as long as they make sense. Working with rules that don't make sense is frustrating, so I am put off learning a language in case I am limited by rules which are nonsensical. Even if the language is really useful, if it doesn't make sense then learning it and using it could be a real nightmare.

Programming is essentially cold, hard logic. Only in rare cases, you may have a command, method, etc. that does not make immediate sense, but you have to think in the way the programming language is meant to do its tasks.
BASIC is quite nonsensical for many modern programmers, as they have learned to program using object oriented languages, which are far easier to work with and understand.

CrinklyCrustacean wrote:
2) I don't have the greatest imagination. When I was very young I loved trying to invent things, but I don't see myself as the guy who is suddenly inspired with the brilliant solution to some big programming problem.

It's understandable that for games and such, you need at least some imagination. But for ordinary programs, you can make improvements by trying them out. ie. Is the user interface confusing?, can the code be simplified for faster execution? An alternative would be to hook up with a small team of people who can do most of the creative work, while you focus on writing the code amd making sure their idea works.

CrinklyCrustacean wrote:
3) I like people and socialising. While there have definitely been times when I have plugged away at the same problem for hours on end, at once both frustrated by the problem at hand and yet fascinated and addicted to finding a solution, I do need 'downtime' both by myself and with other people.

As mentioned before, get together with a like-minded group, but make sure that they respect your "downtime". Every programmer needs a break from it all, so you could arrange some days in the week to concentrate on your own projects or rest.

CrinklyCrustacean wrote:
4) I am already 27. Although people say I both look and come across as 21, any IT job is going to take account of my physical age, plus the fact I don't have an IT qualification (I did a music degree). If I get an IT qualification, I will be older at the end of it and that will shorten any career I have.

Some companies actually take interest in self-taught programmers, although they're hard to find. The plus with many self-taught programmers, is that they have lots of tricks up their sleeves, while many with the education don't even bother to learn aforementioned tricks.
At many of the modern IT educations, you learn to be a "lazy" programmer, meaning that you will most likely learn an object oriented language (most likely Java or C#), while keeping some of the more important stuff (memory management etc.) as a secondary priority. Reading a programming book will yield the same result while you create your own excercises and projects.
In my experience with IT people, many have fancy degrees, but few are actually good at it (the IT dept. at my dad's workplace and at my school being prime examples). Consider creating a website to show off your projects to people and future employers.

CrinklyCrustacean wrote:
5) It seems that many people recommend IT as the ideal job for aspies because it doesn't require social interaction and it does require a keen, almost obsessive, focus. I tend to go through phases where I'm intensly interested in one thing for a while and then something else.

In many cases (especially in making games), that is a lie. Aspies may enjoy being code monkeys, but lots of communication is still required in order to get a good program that works well together with the collective vision of the project.

CrinklyCrustacean wrote:
6) I have mild asperger's. Again, it seems that the aspies in the IT industry are more severely affected than I am, which makes me wonder if the ability to do the job might not be proportional to the severity of the condition (yes I know there are bright NTs who are also very adept with computers). Oddly, though, my brother gave me a relatively simple computing problem to see how I tackled it mentally, and he said that the assumptions and questions I thought were obvious right at the start were things which others would take ages to work out for themselves.

You already got half of the talent right there :D

CrinklyCrustacean wrote:
So, at the end of that rambling post, do you think my brother might have a point, or is my self-doubt well-founded? In addition, is an aspie's skill with computers proportional to the severity of their condition?


He might just have a point there. In any case, you should at least try it
I, at least, find programming to be challenging and fun. I also see it as a way to play "God" with hardware and software (even though there are limits).
I'm on a computer science education that focuses on games and game logic, rules and engines, and I find it quite challenging, both creatively and with my programming skills. At least it can help you create a consistent programming "style".