The IT Company that Turned Autism into an Asset


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I came across an amazing story in The Independent about an IT company staffed almost entirely by people with autism.  The Denmark-based company, Specialisterne, employs 40 people with autism spectrum disorder, and pulls in about $4 million in annual revenue from selling its services to clients the likes of Cisco and Microsoft. 

The company’s founder, Thorkil Sonne, started the business because he wanted his autistic son to have better opportunities later in life. From the article:

Inspired by the talents of his son Lars, who once stunned his father by reproducing from memory a road map of Europe, Mr Sonne set up Specialisterne (Specialists in English) six years ago, concerned at the exclusion from the workplace of people with autism and realising that the traits of “high functioning” autistics were in demand among computer software companies.

Mr Sonne, 49, a father of three, said: “I wanted Lars [to have] the same chances as his brothers. When you say autism most people think of the film, Rainman, and the common perception is that anyone with such a condition is unemployable.

“I came to realise this was very far from the truth. As long as someone with autism could feel comfortable in a workplace and have the social confidence to perform a job then they would have skills that made them more capable than others to perform certain tasks which required large degrees of precision, focus and memory recall.”


Read the whole story here.

The company is also the subject of a study published in the MIT Press Journal Innovations; abstract here.


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