Specialisterne employs autistics

Filed Under (Inclusion, The Joy Of Autism) by Estee on 24-10-2009

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The Atlantic (November 2009 issue) has featured Thorkil Sonne, CEO and Founder of Specialisterne in the article Brave New Thinkers.

“After his son Lars was diagnosed with autism in the late 1990’s, Sonne had an epiphany. Autistics tend to have poor social skills and difficulty response to stress or changes, which makes finding work a challenge (one study suggests that only 6 per cent of autistic adults have full-time employment). but Sonne realized they also tend to be methodical, possess excellent memories, and show great attention to detail and tolerance for repetition — in other words, the might make excellent software testers. With this in mind, Sonne launched Specialisterne, in Copenhagen, in 2004. Thirty-seven of its 51 employees have autism…The firm now pulls in $2 million a year in revenue and serves clients like Microsoft and CSC. Sonne refuses to run the company like a charity: he competes in the open market and aims to make a profit. This makes government support unlikely, but it may lead to a sustainable new model for companies with disabled employees: Harvard Business School now uses Spepcialisterne as a case study in social-enterprise business. People on the autistic spectrum are not super human memory machines, but neither are they incapable of work. Sonne treats them as employees with strengths and weaknesses that smart employers should respect — and capitalize on.” (The Atlantic, November 2009, p. 68).

I know a lot of business people. Some who are very close to Adam who I hope will take serious consideration of employing autistic people, since software development is also their field. It makes me want to visit Sonne’s facility.


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About Me


I’m a PhD candidate at York University, Critical Disability Studies, with a multi-disciplinary background in the arts as a curator and writer. I am the Founder of The Autism Acceptance Project (www.taaproject.com), and an enamoured mother of my only son who lives with the autism label. I like to write about our journey, critical issues regarding autism in the area of human rights, law, and social justice, as well as reflexive practices in (auto)ethnographic writing about autism.