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Summary of 'The Curse of Being "High Functioning"' by Tim Goldstein

30 Apr 2018, in Neurodiversity

One of Uptimize’s subject matter advisors, Tim Goldstein, recently wrote a thought-provoking article entitled The Curse of Being "High Functioning" on the Autism Spectrum. The below is a summary of its key ideas.

The conclusion most reach is I talk like a neurotypical, I act like one, and I converse and engage like one, therefore, I must be a neurotypical like them.

Tim Goldstein has had a highly successful career in the tech sector. He’s autistic, without many of the more visible cues that would be picked up by neurotypical colleagues. He credits many of his career successes to his different thinking style. He also attributes a lack of understanding of this as the reason behind a number of career challenges.

In his recent article, The Curse of Being "High Functioning" on the Autism Spectrum, Tim makes a series of interesting points related to the difficulties he has experienced at work of coming across as ‘almost neurotypical’.

He mentions the common perception of autistic people as sitting on a linear spectrum of competencies, as compared to neurotypicals: this scale is what generates the ‘functional labels’ such as ‘low functioning’ and ‘high functioning’ that are often now seen as overly simplistic, and insufficiently nuanced.

For Tim, these labels are problematic as they effectively place autistic people on a scale of proximity to neurotypical thinking, whereas – as he points out – ‘even’ a ‘higher functioning’ individual such as he processes the world in a markedly different way.

The popular concept is if the person is ‘low functioning’ they have very high expression of most spectrum condition traits. For ‘high functioning’ the belief is the traits decrease across the board as the function improves. At some point the function is so high and the traits so low the ‘high functioning’ start being considered as being merely geeky normal neurotypicals. The Curse of being ‘high functioning’ is being evaluated by neurotypical norms instead of autistic ones.

‘Being seen as neurotypical’, Tim continues, ‘shifts the standards us high functioning autistics have to meet from being challenging to impossible’.

What does ‘being seen as neurotypical’ mean here, to Tim? He has graded some of his own challenges in the following graphic:

What’s interesting here is that while Tim is strong on some of the most ‘visible’ areas of social interaction, he nevertheless does have a number of ‘hidden’ challenges. In his own words:

A quick glance at the graph of my strength and challenge areas clearly disproves the popular concept that high functioning does not mean minimal challenges. I max out at a 10 for anxiety and have multiple challenges at 9 such as emotional processing, black-and-white rigid thinking, and ability to understand non-literal parts of communication.

On the other hand, in the highly visible areas such as eye contact, real time communication, dress, and appropriate vocal tone and body language, I show little to no challenge and perform on or above the typical norm.

The conclusion most reach is I talk like a neurotypical, I act like one, and I converse and engage like one, therefore, I must be a neurotypical like them.

To rectify this ‘curse’ – of being seen as ‘more or less neurotypical’, and having true challenges ignored and/or misunderstood, Tim proposes firstly a rethink in the old linear ‘functional’ scale. He suggests considering cognitive traits (for ALL, not just for neurodivergent or autistic people) using a cloud (360degree) model, as opposed to a linear one – he calls this the ‘Neuro Cloud’. In this way, nuanced traits can be better understood and recognized: and we avoid the problematic urban myth of so called ‘high functioning’ autistic people being seen as ‘basically neurotypical’.

Tim's own profile within his ‘neuro cloud’ model is shown below.

Tim: ‘I am sure you see the misleading implications when we consider developmental disorders in a low to high continuum; more important is your understanding of the random mixing of trait appearance and intensity in any given individual, whether neurotypical or neurodivergent’.

As understanding builds of neurodiversity at work, more people like Tim (diagnosed at 54) are receiving belated recognition for the skills and strengths they can bring to their work and their teams. It’s Tim’s hope – and ours – that more nuanced thinking around ‘strengths’ and ‘challenges’ will help both to provide inclusive workplaces for autistic people, and to spark a broader discussion of cognitive abilities across the ‘human spectrum’.  


To talk more about neurodiversity inclusion in your organization, get in touch!


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Autism at Work Summit Recap

27 Apr 2018, in Neurodiversity

What a few days at the autism at work summit. Uptimize founder Ed Thompson was in Seattle at a wonderful event hosted by Microsoft, where as a year ago employers, service providers, education professionals and more came together to share best practices, insights and strategies relating to neurodiversity in the workplace. 

Particular highlights included keynotes by Thomas D'Eri of Rising Tide Car Wash - an extraordinary, pioneering small business in Florida - and Holly Robinson Peete, who talked movingly about her son on the spectrum and enthusiastically about a new partnership with Microsoft to teach young people digital skills. 

Themes included: the value to ALL employees of including autistic people in the workplace, and the importance of further research in this area to capture and shape best practice strategies, and to continue to make the case for more inclusive hiring and workplaces.

What was also clear - the inspiration that pioneering companies such as Microsoft and JPMorgan Chase have given to a new wave of autism at work program builders.

We're already excited for Autism at Work Summit 2019. Thanks again, Microsoft, for this year's event. 


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Uptimize's Ed Thompson Guests on RIT's first 'Thinking Differently' Webinar

23 Apr 2018, in Autism & Employment

Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in Rochester, NY, has one of the most successful university autism support programs, assisting students through their time at the university and into employment.

We at Uptimize have been collaborating for over a year with RIT's autism program leads Laura Ackles and Janine Rowe on awareness activities with RIT's circle of employers, highlighting together the importance of neurodiversity at work.

Last week, RIT launched the first of a series of webinars - under the title 'Thinking Differently' - to help provide employers with more information about how neurodiversity relates to the workplace, the importance and value of hiring neurodiverse talent, and some practical insights on how to build a neurodiversity at work program in their organization. 

Guesting on the podcast - which you can listen to on YouTube (link below), were: 

- Ed Thompson, CEO Uptimize, explaining how neurodiversity at work can meet the key talent challenges facing most employers in 2018

- Jen Guadagno, Senior Inclusive Hiring program manager at Microsoft, showcasing how Microsoft have built a pioneering and exemplary autism hiring initiative

Click here to listen to the 'Thinking Differently' webinar.


Want to learn more about how to attract, hire and keep neurodiverse talent? Get in touch via our contact form - we'd love to hear from you. 



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Tim Goldstein Joins Uptimize's Subject Matter Advisory Board

17 Apr 2018, in Autism & Employment

We are delighted to announce Tim Goldstein, the highly respected neurodiversity consultant and thought leader, has joined Uptimize's subject matter advisory board. Tim will be bringing his expertise and methodology to Uptimize client engagements, as well as helping to steer Uptimize's content and products as we continue to develop best-in-class solutions in the field of neurodiversity at work. 

Diagnosed with Asperger’s at 54, Denver-based Tim Goldstein has become an eminent “Neurodiverse Communications Specialist“ with a unique appraoch to helping leaders and employees better understand how coworkers on the autism spectrum function.

Having had a successful career both as a senior technical professional in corporations and as an entrepreneur, Tim brings a nuanced perspective to building strategies to support neurodiverse workers. He has taught his concepts at Cornell and written a book, Geeks Guide to Interviews.

Ed Thompson, CEO of Uptimize, said "Tim brings a huge amount to the table as a subject matter expert. The combination of Tim's understanding of business and his personal experiences as an autistic tech professional make him an ideal fit to be part of our journey". 

Tim Goldstein said "I am delighted to join Uptimize’s advisory board with the opportunity to help expand and refine their already best-in-class training. I'm also excited to help clients through presentations, workshops, and webinars to help them fully benefit from Uptimize’s leading edge training".


For more information on our advisory board, visit

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3 Things We Learned At The UN Autism Luncheon

13 Apr 2018, in Autism & Employment

Last week we were pleased to attend a lunch at the UN building in New York, bringing together global experts and practioners in the field of autism at work. The tone and atmosphere was highly positive - unsurprising given the rapid rise in attention on this topic even just over the past 24 months. 

After a series of speeches - and one-to-one conversations with others at the event - these were our three key takeaways:

1. Everyone agrees autism at work isn't just a CSR matter

The topic of ROI was frequently cited, as was the need to continue to position autism initiatives to HR as high-impact talent strategy plays - not charity. This syncs with Uptimize's own ethos and view of neurodiverse teams as a clear competitive advantage.

2. Autism-at-work is a global focus

At Uptimize, so far we have worked principally in the US, the UK and Australia - though we are looking to create versions of our products in other languages, following client requests. It was great to see attendees from China, the Americas and Europe coming together to share best practices and future strategies.

3. Autism-at-work will benefit from further data, proving the impact of neurodiverse hiring

This was something that came up in the discussion; our view is that while the initial data has been highly positive (witness JPMorgan Chase finding their neurodiverse teams have been 50% more productive!) there is a need for further, more wide-ranging studies across the space. This is something we are committed to facilitating at Uptimize with our university partners - watch this space! 

Want to know more about our work? Please get in touch through our website contact form.

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Marcia Scheiner’s Essential Book for Managers

4 Sep 2017, in Autism & Employment

At Uptimize, we work closely with a number of partners whose services, ethos and mission complement and sync with our own.

One such partner is Integrate Autism Advisors (formerly Asperger Syndrome Training & Employment Partnership) based in New York, an organization than specializes in helping employers to recruit autistic talent.

Integrate’s founder and President, Marcia Scheiner, is – like Integrate’s other key figures -  the parent of an adult son with Asperger Syndrome.  Previously, she spent 25 years in financial services, building up an impressive private sector resume before founding Integrate.

Marcia has now written a book - An Employer’s Guide to Managing Professionals on the Autism Spectrum – a definitive guide to managing people with an ASD effectively. The book covers all aspects of managing a direct report on the spectrum, from ensuring the manager truly understands autism itself, to social interaction, emotional regulation, and work performance.

“A very valuable guide to the chagallenges that people with autismface in the workplace… this will help ensure the workplace is inclusive for people with autism”

Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, Director, Autism Research Centre, Cambridge University

“… unique and especially useful in today’s competitive landscape, where employers are looking to tap into this unexplored talent pool”

James Mahoney, Executive Director, Head of Autism at Work, JPMorgan Chase & Company

We strongly recommend this book as both an introductory and complimentary resource for managers with autistic staff. You can purchase a copy here:

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