Specialisterne is creating one million jobs for people with autism
April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day. Autism affects 1 in 68 children, and the prevalence is growing. In fact, it is one of the fastest-growing developmental disorders in the U.S. Though no two cases of autism are alike, autism impacts social interaction, cognitive function, and communication. 40% of children with autism do not speak.
These differences in people who experience autism can lead to social isolation. Most are locked out of the workplace. But does that have to be the case?
According to Thorkil Sonne of Specialisterne, autistic people have capabilities that make them ideally suited for certain specialist jobs. The name Specialisterne is Danish for “specialists.” Thorkil describes it this way. “This is a group of people who are not thriving on the paradigm of a generalist. But they can thrive under the paradigm of specialists.” He has a goal of creating one million jobs for people with autism.
“Autistic people have many talents, like everyone has,” Thorkil explains. “They have attention to detail. They are very structured. They have pride in what they do. And very often they come up with ideas that no one else has thought about. This is what so many companies are looking for.”
According to Thorkil, one barrier to employment is the ability to sell themselves to recruiters. “How can we help recruiters understand the talent, rather than how good this person is at selling himself or herself?” That’s where Specialisterne comes in.
“Typically, we will have conversations with a company. We’ll ask them where they have challenges to recruit talent,” Thorkil says. “Do you have jobs that could benefit from attention to detail and some ideas that no one else has thought about? I’ll bet a lot of jobs would benefit from people like that.”
Specialisterne screens employers for a good fit. “We don’t want to work with just any employer,” Thorkil describes. “We want to work with companies that understand that you have to adapt to settings where autistic people can thrive.”
They look for companies with four primary values:
- Diversity: They value diversity on their teams. They recognize that diversity makes teams stronger.
- Accommodations: Companies recognize the need for accommodations for the individual.
- Clarity: Set expectations. Say what you mean. Mean what you say. Expect that you will have honesty in return.
- Accessibility: If employees need guidance, they know where to go and get it.
Not surprisingly, Thorkil explains, “What we see is, a place where autistic people thrive, will be a better place to work for everyone.”
Because Thorkil’s background is IT, Specialisterne has a strong relationship in the IT industry. However, they have placed people in jobs from pig farming to cybersecurity and everything in between. “These are the specialists that your company needs, and we can help you.”
Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Thorkil Sonne
Social Entrepreneurship Resources:
- Specialisterne: http://specialisternefoundation.com
- Specialisterne on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/specialisternefoundation
- Specialisterne USA on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Spfnd_USA
- World Autism Awareness Day: http://www.un.org/en/events/autismday
- Book: Crazy Good Advice: 10 Lessons Learned from 150 Leading Social Entrepreneurs: https://tonyloyd.com/book