The latest business practice further complicates the debate over whether our society treats autism as a curable disease or as a diverse personality trait.

Large corporations have begun employing greater numbers of people who fall "on the spectrum" - a term used to describe the wide band of people who exhibit autistic characteristics, from severe mental retardations to higher levels of functioning, such as those with Asperger's - to exploit them for their neurological diversity. Businesses liken the practice to hiring on the basis of physical diversity.

"We need to see neurological diversity in much the same way as we've seen workplace diversity efforts in the past on the basis of race, gender and sexual orientation," said Ari Ne'eman, president of the Washington DC-based Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) and a member of the U.S. National Council on Disability. "We're now seeing a growing level of interest in this."

An emerging concern around this practice questions the motives of corporations, whether they have started hiring people who fall on the spectrum to "rehabilitate" their autism, or offer them a genuine opportunity.

Joshua Kendall, author of American Obsessives, where he makes the case that many of America's greatest businesses grew out of obsessive leaders, is skeptical of the businesses' practices.

"These big companies aren't doing it out of the kindness of their heart," he said in a telephone interview with Reuters. "They are doing it because they now realize they've been missing something."

The majority of new hires have entered into science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, a testament to the disorder's added predisposition for obsession and attention to detail in higher functioning autism, and perhaps also the disorder's social impairment, as these fields tend to involve longer stretches of time alone.

But to what extent are these predispositions being exploited, rather than highlighted? That is the crucial question about which Kendall remains skeptical.

"These are people who have traditionally been labeled as disabled. So do we want to treat them, or do we want to allow them to be as they are and adapt to them?" said Kendall.

One such company that has begun new hiring practices is the German computer software company SAP, who made a statement last month: "We share a common belief that innovation comes from the edges. [People with autism] have strong attention to detail and an ability to identify mistakes."

SAP said it plans to hire 650 autistic people by 2020 as part of its global autism recruitment drive. These new hires would account for around one percent of SAP's current staff of 64,000.

Ari Ne'eman remains confident about the initiative, as he himself is autistic and works in the social realms of politics and public policy.

Ne'eman said data for the United States has not yet been compiled, so measuring the statistics across the pond is not feasible. Meanwhile, Carol Povey of the UK's National Autistic Society said a far greater percentage of autistic adults are capable of working than the current 15 percent.

"It's great to see organizations not just doing from corporate social responsibility," she said. "But actually recognizing there is a good business case behind having more people with autism in the workforce. These people will contribute to the effectiveness and growth of the business."

Only time will tell how these initiatives play out - whether they trickle into other spheres, such as business and politics, like Ne'eman has, or if they settle into a niche in STEM fields.

What seems to be clear, however, is that despite how politically dicey the initiatives may seem, other workplace interactions will certainly experience challenges. Consider the myriad micro-interactions that take place on a daily basis, be they at the water cooler or during meetings. And no matter the quality of an employee's work, office culture remains an important node in the business's overall efficiency.

"They are unlikely to get involved in the banter of the workplace," Povey said, "and more likely to just get on with the job."