Someone in a local autism group shared this fascinating article by Michael Booth from Britain’s The Independent about an unusual Danish company:

Better, faster… and no office politics:  the company with the autistic specialists

Specialisterne (The Specialists) is a company in Denmark that employs adults on the autistic spectrum to test software and other systems.  It was founded 2004 by Thorkil Sonne, who became familiar with Asperger’s after his son was diagnosed on the spectrum.

A couple of excerpts:

“Five years on, Specialisterne employs 60 people, has a turnover of almost £2m, and works with Microsoft (it tested Windows XP Media Center) and CSC, among other major international companies, helping them to check information systems, databases and other highly demanding, often repetitive, number-crunching tasks. Specialisterne has won numerous business and industry awards, and now has two offices in Denmark. If current plans pan out, a new branch will open in Glasgow later this year. It is a shining model of how to turn a highly skilled yet misunderstood and underexploited element of the population – around one per cent have a diagnosis of autism, but other related ‘invisible disabilities’, such as ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) for instance, may account for as much as 3.5 per cent of the population – into productive and integrated members of the workforce.”

The company is not just giving people with autism and Asperger’s a place to work, though– it is apparently doing quite well!

“Leading UK software-testing consultant Stephen Allott of ElectroMind has been acting as an unpaid adviser to Specialisterne as the company prepares to enter the UK market where, currently, only about six per cent of people with autism are in full-time employment. He is very clear on the advantages of using them: ‘Simply, they are better, faster and do higher-quality work than the people we can currently get from the labour market in the UK or India,’ he says. ‘One of their guys can read a technical document the size of a book and spot inconsistencies between something on page three and page 37, which is incredibly useful. I already have clients in the UK who are interested in what they have to offer. The only thing we need to be careful about is their working environment. I know lots of companies with noisy, chaotic, open-plan offices, where the work is like fire-fighting most of the time, and people from Specialisterne wouldn’t be able to work there. That said, the environment they need is the kind of environment we should all be working in anyway.'”

What a great idea!  I hope it catches on.  : )

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