Skip to main content

Steven Boyle, MEng '98 & PhD '13

(Civil Engineering)

Building awareness of autism spectrum disorder

After eight years heading up information technology services for the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies, Steve Boyle has made a job change.

The main reason? A better balance between career, health and lifestyle.

As the newly appointed Director of Applications and Information Management for Fleming College, Boyle will lead, plan and oversee the school’s major systems and information strategy.

“I'm so excited about this opportunity,” he says. “This move brings career, family, lifestyle, and health together and makes a lifelong dream come true: living year-round in the country by a lake.”

The role caps off two decades of success in information technology roles for Boyle, who earned his master’s degree in civil engineering in 1998 and returned to McMaster to complete some PhD courses in 2013.

He is looking to use that success to raise awareness around autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

“When I first graduated from engineering and entered the work force I was well equipped with critical thinking, problem solving, and technical skills,” says Boyle. “But like many new managers, I was not so well equipped in people skills and emotional intelligence.”

Through the years he has worked to better understand his condition and develop more effective communication strategies. That process has helped him speak more openly about his sometimes “quirky” social behaviours that might be misunderstood by others.

“Sometimes, I say stupid things. Sometimes I’m unaware. Sometimes I’ll read you wrong. I’m sorry,” he says.

“For those on the spectrum, I think what matters most is that we don't need someone who understands us, just someone who wants to.”

Boyle offers some tips for working or interacting with people with Asperger’s syndrome or ASD:

Avoid making assumptions about people based on a diagnosis. Get to know them.

Be aware of differences in communication styles and skill levels. Social skills do not come naturally to all individuals.

Open discussion, patience, supported self-reflection and guidance for insight building can help individuals with ASD improve social skills and emotional intelligence.

Be clear and direct in your communication, as individuals on the spectrum are often analytical rather than abstract thinkers.

Understand their strengths. Individuals on the spectrum are often very logical, rational and procedural. They are strong at identifying evidence and working with concrete information.

Educate yourself on diagnosis by talking to the individual and seeking resources or information to support your learning.