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CEO traces autism's influence on career path he started as a high school dropout

Daniella Genovese

While most of his classmates were preparing for college, Dan Schneider took a less conventional route. At 16 years old, he left high school to become an entrepreneur.

Now, at 38 years old, Schneider sits at the helm of SIB Fixed Cost Reduction, a company which he founded in 2008 amid the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression. And despite the economic downturn, SIB, which helps companies reduce recurring expenses, thrived.

Schneider went on to help develop SIB Lighting and SIB Legal Bill Review, which specialize in specific types of expense management, and sits on the board of AscendRX, a software application that analyzes hospital spending. He's also the co-founder of Movi Healthcare, a non-emergency medical transport platform.

Schneider soon garnered national recognition as the CEO who offered $50,000 retention bonuses and asked employees who made significant mistakes to buy ice cream for their co-workers. One thing even the people closest to him may not know, however, is that Schneider has a form of autism so subtle he was only diagnosed with it formally six months ago, one that keeps him from perceiving some social cues the way other people do.

That he had the condition was a possibility Schneider had been weighing for a while before seeking a formal evaluation. Only a year into developing SIB, a friend had suggested he exhibited traits of Asperger’s, a syndrome later reclassified as a high-functioning portion of the autism spectrum.

Initially, he dismissed the idea.

“I thought it would be seen as a sign of weakness, especially as I was growing a company,” Schneider told FOX Business. His reasons for addressing it now aren't what many would assume.

While Schneider is able to process information quickly — a strength that benefits him in running SIB — the way he does so has sometimes been misinterpreted by those around him.

“I will ask a lot of questions rapidly because I am processing the information so fast,” Schneider said, adding that people he's talking with have sometimes felt he was talking down to or interrogating them.

“I never realized when I would be raising my voice, and I never realized when I would be rapidly questioning someone, so now when I catch myself doing it – I get more upset with myself," he said. “The worst thing someone can say to me is, ‘Why can’t you just be normal?” 

One in 59 children is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, a condition related to brain development that can impact how an individual perceives and socializes with others, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The term "spectrum" refers to the wide range of symptoms and severity. High-functioning is often used to refer to the milder end of the spectrum, as in Schneider's case.

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And while public figures have a variety of reasons why they remain quiet or choose to open up about their health condition, Schneider just has one.

He simply wants to stop offending his employees, something he never meant to do but quite often did.

And the solution seemed obvious, if he opened up about his condition, Schneider said it may help those around him better understand.

“Sometimes the solutions are right there but you have to be willing to not just go with what the common thought process is,” he said.

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