For young adults with autistic attributes; to support them on the journey into further education and beyond.


Personality theories have traditionally focussed on understanding and classifying ‘neurotypical’ individuals. Once classified, these theories have been used to predict behaviour and potential suitability in situations such as employment. The ‘Big Five’ personality theory covers five broad categories of personality traits and there is a significant body of literature supporting this model for neurotypical individuals. However, the ‘Big Five’ model is less applicable, or fails completely, when assessing those with neuroatypical conditions. Some neuroatypical traits are extremes within the ‘Big Five’ model. Other traits are contradictory and conflict with the current model, which therefore cannot be used or relied upon as a predictive tool.

The aims of this study are to research and extend the ‘Big Five’ personality theory to encompass the unique attributes of ‘neuroatypical’ individuals. It is proposed that a sixth ‘Special’ trait needs to be developed and incorporated into this personality model to increase its universal applicability. The research will focus on the neuroatypical conditions of Asperger syndrome and high functioning autism.

It is proposed that those with high functioning autistic spectrum disorders (ASDs) are predisposed to identify and create opportunities for innovative change rather than pursue the process of incremental development. Such attributes should be valued, but 85% of those with Asperger syndrome (100,000 individuals in the UK) are unemployed, even though many have above-average intelligence. This level of unemployment incurs a significant cost to society, which is in addition to the social and wellbeing costs to the individuals.

This research will investigate current and future career opportunities where the unique attributes of high functioning ASDs can be a positive benefit rather than a disability. It is proposed that current recruitment and employee management techniques are ‘neurotypical’. Those who are ‘neuroatypical’ either fail to secure employment or are considered ‘difficult’ employees to manage, under-utilised and career-limited within organisations compared to their neurotypical peer group.

It is proposed that the beneficial attributes of high functioning ASDs need to be identified and valued as early as possible to ensure that opportunities for future education and employment are secured. Part of the research will involve liaison with employers eg. Rolls-Royce plc., who are leading the paradigm shift in employment practices and innovation that the Fourth Industrial Revolution will introduce. This will focus on identifying recruitment and placement processes that can ascertain and utilise the beneficial ASD attributes in candidates.

It is proposed that early diagnosis, intervention and self-awareness of the strengths and weaknesses of having an ASD is cost-effective to society as it facilitates objective decision-making concerning education, career and life choices.


  1. Identify the neuroatypical traits present in individuals with high functioning ASDs.
  2. Review how current personality theories incorporate neuroatypical traits; specifically the ‘Big Five’ personality theory and high functioning ASD traits.
  3. Assess how current personality theories can be modified to better incorporate neuroatypical traits.
  4. Devise an extension to the current ‘Big Five’ personality theory to incorporate neuroatypical personality traits;
  5. Benchmark neuroatypical personality traits against the desirable attributes of current and Fourth Industrial Revolution employment opportunities.
  6. Investigate and liaise with employers who are expected to be significantly affected by, and are already planning for, the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
  7. Assess to what extent organisations are ‘neurotypical’ in their interviewing, management, disciplining and career development of their employees. What accommodation is, or could be, made for those with high functioning ASDs.


  1. To extend the ‘Big Five’ personality theory to encompass neuroatypical personality traits; with particular focus on those pertaining to individuals with high functioning ASDs.
  2. The identification and quantification of the beneficial attributes pertaining to those with high functioning ASDs for employment.
  3. To identify the organisations and occupations where neuroatypical attributes could be valued, with particular focus on employment opportunities in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

A process by which individuals and employers can identify, assess and value neuroatypical attributes.

Andrew Hooper, Universty of Chichester