Beyond Autism Awareness, Thorkil Sonne, Specialisterne

Specialisterne is creating one million jobs for people with autism

Thorkil Sonne, Specialisterne, World Autism Awareness Day

Thorkil Sonne, Specialisterne, at the United Nations for World Autism Awareness Day

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

[spp-tweet tweet=”“How would you describe a non-autistic person? We’re all individuals.” @spfnd @Spfnd_USA”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“It felt like a catastrophe.” @spfnd @Spfnd_USA”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“I felt it was so unfair that people like that don’t get a chance like everyone else.” @spfnd @Spfnd_USA”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“It’s also unfair to the labor market.” @spfnd @Spfnd_USA”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“We have created barriers that keep so many talented autistic people out of the workforce.” @spfnd @Spfnd_USA”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“My son was the same kid the day before and the day after the diagnosis.” @spfnd @Spfnd_USA”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“We had to accept the way he is, and then try to influence our society.” @spfnd @Spfnd_USA”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“I did not spend my time on risk analysis.” @spfnd @Spfnd_USA”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“I asked my wife if we could mortgage the house because I needed to do this.” @spfnd @Spfnd_USA”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“We don’t have an exit strategy until we have changed society.” @spfnd @Spfnd_USA”]

[spp-tweet tweet=””When you create the right environment, the ‘dis’ disappears from disability.” @spfnd @Spfnd_USA”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“These are the specialists that your company needs, and we can help you.” @spfnd @Spfnd_USA”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Dedication and family support are more important than risk analysis and business plans.” @spfnd @Spfnd_USA”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“It is difficult to solve a social challenge through a business model.” @spfnd @Spfnd_USA”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“We can all be changemakers.” @spfnd @Spfnd_USA”]

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:

 

About the Author
Tony Loyd is a TEDx speaker, podcast host and the author of Crazy Good Advice: 10 Lessons Learned from 150 Leading Social Entrepreneurs. He is a former Fortune 500 executive with extensive experience in strategic planning, talent management, and leadership development. Tony is the host of the podcast Social Entrepreneur where you can hear the stories of changemakers who are making an impact on the world.

What do you think? Tell me here.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.