Jobs and society  |  Successes  |  01.07.2012

Enabling one million jobs for people with autism

Specialisterne is a Danish social innovation company providing IT consultancy services, the majority of whose employees are people with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD). Specialisterne is owned by the Specialist People Foundation that aims to enable one million jobs for people with autism or similar challenges.

Autistic people are generally able to concentrate for longer periods of time, persevere in and enjoy performing repetitive tasks, have the ability of recognising patterns and spotting deviances in sets of data and systems, have a talent for process optimization and an outstanding attention to details. However, people with autism or similar challenges remain marginalised on the labour markets, with an estimate of a mere 15% in full time employment. Most jobs vacancies today ask candidates to “be a team player, work well under stress and exhibit flexibility”, traits that tend to exclude people with autism or similar challenges from the labour market, despite their ability and willingness to work.

The Specialist People Foundation works to create employment opportunities for people with ASD, by ensuring adequate working conditions in which the unique competencies of people with ASD can be maximised. Specialisterne provides data logistics (data conversion and migration, data cleansing, scanning), testing and registration (functionality testing for software, hardware, websites and applications usability) and software management services (programming, data base optimization, algorithm construction etc).

Working for Specialisterne starts with a personal assessment and training of individuals diagnosed with autism. The assessment is meant to determine their personal strengths, aptitudes, capabilities and interests, as well as identify their needs for guidance and support in order to perform in a specific job context. 34 persons are currently working in the Specialisterne Denmark as consultants on tasks as diverse as software testing, data registration and quality control for international IT and communications companies. Since 2009, Specialisterne is also operating a three year education program for young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder, meant to offer a holistic education process that includes social and behavioural skills, as well as cultural understanding.

Specialisterne was started in Denmark in 2004 and the business model has been extended to Scotland, Iceland, Switzerland, Austria and the US (Minnesota and Delaware). All Specialisterne operations are managed via the Dandelion model that focuses on how best to make people with autism feel wanted in the workforce and how to create the right environment in which they can excel.

The company’s vision is to enable one million jobs globally for people with ASD. Their strategy in achieving this vision is to replicate Specialisterne-type operations around the world to showcase the contribution to the labour market of autistic people once offered a working environment where their skills are explored to the fullest potential. The company is the proof of the benefits both for businesses, as well as for society of integrating on the labour market specialist groups of people that are otherwise marginalised. The strategy will succeed if it becomes attractive for the corporate sector to use the management model in order to mainstream employment of people with ASD in any company.

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