Autism and Aspergers Syndrome are related; however, there appears to be a difference of opinion as to what that is. Aspergers seems to be diagnosed at a later age, say the teen years, while Autism is generally noticed during childhood. Aspergers is generally thought to be less severe.
They are jointly referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder; because, there is a wide range of severity. People with this Spectrum Disorder demonstrate a delay in the development of certain basic skills, most notably the ability to socialize with others, reduced communication skills and a lack of imagination. They are most comfortable in stable, familiar situations and do not readily appreciate changes in their personal environment.
Recently, SAP, the German software giant has realized that people with Autism Spectrum Disorder can have job skills which are beneficial in certain employment situations. For instance, they can flourish in performing repetitive tasks and tend to be more thorough in following assignments through to completion, without skipping steps.
The linked article, from the Wall Street Journal, discusses the program that SAP has devised in conjunction with Specialisterne, a Danish information-technology and consulting company, http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887324094704579069090866313258#printMode.
People with autism are hired and trained to work as software testers, programmers and the like. The hiring process involves: screening for likely workplace candidates; orientation; training and coaching. Besides SAP, the US mortgage giant, Freddie Mac also has a program to take advantages of employees who have the Spectrum Disorder. Both companies stress that hiring people with the Spectrum Disorder is not a social hand-out; but, rather a business decision
As the article also points out, Virginia Commonwealth University, as well as other universities, has helped elementary and high schools develop skills programs that can identify students with Spectrum Disorder and provide them with the skill-set that they can benefit from in life. Currently, fifty percent of such adults are unemployed and research has found that gainful employment can help them in their overall development.