IT Firm Puts Autism to Work

Software tester finds niche for those with the disorder
By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 15, 2009 12:25 PM CDT
IT Firm Puts Autism to Work
A usability tester at Microsoft Corp., works in a test lab in Redmond, Wash.   (AP Photo)

A Danish entrepreneur—and father of a son with autism—has figured out a profitable way to serve the needs of blue chip companies and the underemployed members of the autism community. Thorkil Sonne’s company, Specialisterne, does repetitive software testing, turning its employees’ disability into an asset. “This is not about offering cheap labor,” he tells the Independent. “Our consultants receive a market salary and that is because they simply do a better job.”

“Our error rate is 0.5% compared to the 5% for other testers,” Sonne says. The substantial profits of the company, which employs 40 and is expanding into the UK, are plowed back into a charitable foundation. Specialisterne is not a regular company—offsite work environments must be tailored to its employees’ needs, and a complicated Lego test is used in lieu of an interview. Though Sonne says it’s not “occupational therapy,” the benefits are tangible. “I have seen people transformed.” (More autism stories.)

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