Gov. Jack Markell of the State of Delaware today joined Thorkil Sonne, Founder and President of The Specialisterne Foundation, and Thère du Pont, President of the Longwood Foundation, in a special announcement about funding to facilitate the employment of Delawareans with high-functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Markell praised Specialisterne’s commitment to establishing jobs for individuals with high-functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder and for working with businesses to match people’s skills with the appropriate positions. The governor said Specialisterne’s passion and ambition for employing individuals is similar to his for the people of Delaware. “I am working to create jobs for all Delawareans, including people with a range of disabilities.”
Specialisterne (“The Specialists” in Danish) is an innovative social business concept founded in Denmark in 2004. The employees are primarily high-functioning individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), primarily Aspergers Syndrome, but many may also have ADHD, for instance. Specialisterne provides valuable services for the corporate sector on market terms, and also provides assessment, training and education services.
Specialisterne has an excellent reputation in the management and provision of software and services testing, mobile device testing, quality control and data conversion for leading companies. It invests upfront in assessing and training people to fulfill the requirements of business sectors such as IT, telecoms, healthcare, financial services and pharmaceuticals, which need people with a passion for detail, focus and perseverance.
The Specialisterne employment model is enjoying strong interest from societies worldwide where innovative yet proven solutions to social challenges are being sought. Beside its origin in Denmark, Specialisterne is today present in Iceland, Switzerland and Norway, and have provided inspiration to many other players around the world. The Danish non-profit organization spearheading the global proliferation of the Specialisterne concept, the Specialisterne Foundation (former Specialist People Foundation), is working with local stakeholders on bringing the Specialisterne concept into numerous new locations such as England, Ireland, Poland, Germany, Austria, Spain, Turkey, Canada and several states across the U.S.
“Since Specialisterne was founded in 2004 we have developed a unique approach to identify and develop the potential in high-functioning people with autism and establish comfort zones in which they can use their special talents to solve valuable tasks for the corporate sector,” said Thorkil Sonne, founder of Specialisterne and President of Specialisterne Foundation, Inc., Wilmington, Del. “The model of Specialisterne has already changed the lives of many individuals and their families, and it is with great excitement that we now are able to bring the benefits of Specialisterne to the citizens of the United States.”
“We have been increasingly active in the country for the last couple of years, and have much momentum building nationwide,” Sonne added. “The strong dedication from stakeholders has made it a natural choice for us to focus on Delaware as the first state for Specialisterne, and we look forward very much to working with local stakeholders to create win-win situations for the corporate sector, individuals, families and the state as an example for the United States.”
Thère du Pont, President of the Longwood Foundation, said: “Businesses need the skill set of some of the higher-functioning autistic individuals that are all over the world, and specifically here in Delaware, and his organization, Specialisterne, makes that possible.”
The Specialisterne Foundation will provide sustainable employment and career opportunities for individuals who typically are kept out of the job market primarily because of their disability, despite a high functionality level. The Specialisterne Foundation wants to drive and support the adoption of the Specialisterne model across the United States. In addition to Delaware, the Specialisterne Foundation is currently working with local stakeholders in the states of Minnesota, North Dakota, New York, Colorado, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, California and Washington to raise the needed funding to start further local operations. More states will be added to the roadmap in the coming years, subject to interest and local support.
The primary focus for Specialisterne presently is ASD, a complex pervasive developmental disorder that affects a person’s communication and interaction with others. Autism is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a ”spectrum disorder” that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. There is no known single cause of ASD. The number of individuals with autism continues to grow at a rapid rate and the latest published prevalence rate from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now is 1 in 88.
The goal of the Specialisterne Foundation (former Specialist People Foundation), the non-profit organization that drives the Specialisterne model globally, is to enable 1 million jobs across the world for people with ASD and similar challenges.
For interested donors and grant-givers:
In the U.S., tax-exempt donations and grants for nationwide capacity building and designated project implementation support for Delaware, Minnesota, North Dakota, New York, Colorado, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, California and Washington states can be made to the “Specialisterne Fund” at the Delaware Community Foundation at http://www.delcf.org/ with a credit card (select ‘Make a Donation” and search for Specialisterne), by check payable to Delaware Community Foundation, 100 W. 10th Street, Suite 115, Wilmington, DE 19899, or contact Thorkil Sonne at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss further.