First Person: Founder of Specialisterne

First Person: Founder of Specialisterne

Ten years ago, my family's life changed when our youngest son, Lars, was diagnosed with autism at the age of 3. He would now face a life in which he would be constantly misunderstood and isolated from society, as it would be difficult for him to interpret what others expected of him. Most likely, Lars would never have a normal working life.

In 2004, I founded Specialisterne, a business that made it possible for those with autism spectrum disorder to excel in a competitive market without having to worry about how to fit in with others' social expectations. Specialisterne has received several awards, and it's used as a case study at the Harvard Business School.

I want to create new possibilities for people with ASD. For too long, the strength, capacity and potential of individuals with ASD have gone unrecognized and underappreciated. By spreading the Specialisterne model around the world and sharing our knowledge with workplaces so that they can better integrate people with ASD, we can get there. We can build a world free of unnecessary barriers, stereotypes and discrimination.

My goal is to create 1,000,000 jobs for people with ASD and other invisible disabilities. We use the phrase "specialist people" to describe those in need of extra support and understanding in a competitive business market.

You might ask yourself whether people with ASD in the United States and Denmark share the same needs, enjoy the same possibilities, and whether the Specialisterne model can work in both countries. Yes, I very much believe it can. We all need new ways of employing people with ASD, and I think the Specialisterne model can succeed anywhere with the right support and commitment.

I have been adopted as a fellow by the global network of social entrepreneurs, Ashoka, and will receive its support to globalize our concept and reach our goal.

It started with one boy, and one diagnosis of autism. Now we are well en route to realizing the goal of 1 million jobs for "specialist people."

You can join our mission too. Learn more on www.specialistpeople.com

Thorkil Sonne is the founder of Specialisterne and Specialist People Foundation. He's the proud father of a son with ASD.

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