People at the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum usually have a higher than average IQ, and special mental gifts – photographic recall is common. In spite of this, they have an unemployment rate higher than 85%. Observing the amazing abilities of his own son with Autism, Danish Information Technology professional Thorkil Sonne founded Specialisterne (‘The Specialists’) in 2004, employing persons with Autism as IT consultants, primarily in software testing and data conversion.
The Copenhagen company has thrived on the special skills of its employees, delivered the benefits of their talents to Danish firms, and created good jobs for over 50 people, 33 of whom are on the autism spectrum. In 2009, Thorkil set up the non-profit Specialist People Foundation and sold Specialisterne to it for a single Danish Krone. The foundation’s goal is to create one million jobs for those on the autism spectrum, in part through facilitating the start-up of similar operations in other countries. Licensed Specialisterne operations have been established in many countries around the world.
Calgary has tremendous potential to be a successful Specialisterne site. It has roughly twice the population of Copenhagen, and has a much higher proportion of Information Technology activity. The Specialisterne Canada Advisory Board’s goal is to establish Specialisterne Canada as a Calgary-based not-for-profit company. Autism Calgary, a registered charity, is underwriting this project.
We are proud to announce that Thorkil Sonne will be in Calgary to kick-start our project, January 30 and 31. We begin with a Feasibility Study and Business Planning. Our goal is to begin operations before the end of 2012.
Thorkil will be helping to promote our project to the local IT community and Calgary supporters, and will be available for media events. He has a powerful and positive story to tell.