Could There Be An Advantage To Autism?

I don't have a child with autism, so I can't even begin to understand what day to day life might be for a parent raising an autistic child. But I know from many of my friends who have children with autism spectrum disorder that there are often many days that a parent can be pushed to the very brink of despair and absolute frustration.

So how can autism be an advantage? I was preparing my research for my blog post on the Congressional Hearings on autism that recently took place and came across an interesting article from the NY Times, titled "The Autism Advantage".

How One Family In Denmark Chose To Look At Autism

The story from The Times is about the Sonne family in Denmark. Thorkil Sonne's son, Lars, has autism. Growing up, his family noticed that he also had a natural skill for intense focus and careful execution. These were two skills his father often looked for in people he hired for his company.

So Lar's father slowly conceived a business idea knowing that many companies often have difficulty finding workers who can perform specific, often tedious tasks like data entry or software testing. He knew that many with autism, like his son, would excel at tasks such as these. 

Sonne started a company called Specialisterne - Danish for “the specialists.” And the tag line on the website is: "Passion for Details." Another tagline they have is: "Sense and Details."

Sonne felt that given the right environment, an autistic adult could not just hold down a job but also be the best person for it. Specialisterne now employs 35 high-functioning autistic workers who are hired out as consultants, as they are called, to 19 companies throughout Denmark.  

Specialisterne Banner

“He has made me think about this differently, that these individuals can be a part of our business and our plans,” says Ernie Dianastasis, a managing director of CAI, an information-technology company that has agreed to work with Specialisterne to find jobs for autistic software testers in the United States.

More and More Autistic Children are Reaching Adulthood

In June of this year, Sonne opened a Specialisterne headquarters based in the United States in Wilmington, Delaware. The company plans to start recruiting and training autistic software testers. Their goal it to expand the program to other states. Specialisterne is also in discussions with Microsoft about a possible pilot software program which will be based in Fargo, North Dakota.

We often hear so much about the challenges of autism and with good reason, but every once in a while it's nice to hear accounts like this, too. If you have a moment, read the full story. Many of the children with autism are reaching adulthood and that brings up new challenges and concerns.

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