Specialisterne translates from Danish as “The Specialists”, and is the name of the original Danish company and concept developed by Thorkil Sonne. Specialisterne Denmark and the Specialisterne trademark is owned by the Specialisterne Foundation.
The different Specialisterne operations around the world are truly socially innovative companies, using the characteristics of people with autism as a competitive advantage, and as a means to help people with autism secure employment. The majority of the employees in Specialisterne have a diagnosis on the autism spectrum, and work as consultants on tasks such as software testing, programming and data-entry for the corporate sector.
At Specialisterne, people with autism work in an environment where they are presented with the best possible opportunities to reach their potential. They do not have to learn to adapt to the traditional norms in a working environment, such as being a good team player, being empathetic, handling stress well and showing flexibility. These are not the usual characteristics for people with autism; a fact that often result in them being excluded long-term from the labor market. Instead, Specialisterne welcomes these very differences and character traits that are so often stigmatized.
Putting it simply; at Specialisterne, not fitting in is a good thing. The traits that usually exclude people with autism from the labor market are the very traits that make them valuable employees at Specialisterne; such as attention to detail, zero-fault tolerance and a persistence to get the job done. We do not see them as people with an autism diagnosis; rather, we see them as true specialists, which is why we refer to them as “specialist people”. Imagine a world where someone who was once defined by their diagnosis, would instead be defined as a “specialist person” ?
At the core of Specialisterne is a five-month assessment program where candidates with autism go through different exercises, tasks and work situations. This assessment program helps our staff to see past the diagnosis to the candidate’s real personality, skill-set and potential.
Specialisterne Denmark also operates a three-year education program for young adults with autism and similar challenges such as ADD, ADHD, OCD and Tourette’s Syndrome. The purpose of the school is to create a holistic approach to education which, besides teaching traditional subjects, also focus on social and cultural understanding, health and well-being, social behavior and skills. The school works closely with Specialisterne Denmark’s business partners and supports students with internships and work-experience.
The Specialisterne concept proves that people with autism and similar challenges can be valuable and worthy contributors to the labor market, once they are understood and get the support they need to excel.