Tonight’s ABC News has a wonderful story to kick off Autism Awareness Month. Specilisterne (it means specialists) is a thriving Danish company that tests software–a click-by-click process so tedious it causes most testers to lose focus and make mistakes.
Thorkill Sonne, who founded Specilisterne in Copenhagen, believes that everyone does not have to fit in socially-accepted little boxes. He means to change the nature of that box completely. He is turning disability on its head, hiring his employees because of their ability. Sonne says workers with high-functioning autism have different brain wiring that gives them an edge.
Sonne told ABC News, “they have a good memory, they have very strong attention to details, they are persistent … within their area of motivation and they follow instructions.”
But Sonne has another motivation besides good business: he has a young son with autism, and hopes his successful example will create more opportunities for people with autism. Many of the employees at Specilisterne were unemployed for decades, because they were considered by most employers to be too out-of-sync socially and too distractible to be good workers.
Mads, another employee at Specilisterne, told ABC News he hadn’t been able to keep a job in 20 years before landing his current job. He told us, “Most of my colleagues are like me … we have in common to be weird.”