Autism Advantage Luncheon 2018

2018 Autism Advantage Luncheon

The 2018 Autism Advantage Luncheon event is organized by the United Nations Department of Public Information, in collaboration with Specialisterne Foundation. It is co-sponsored by the Permanent Missions of Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Denmark, Israel, Italy, Kazakhstan and Poland, and organized with the support of CognoaGoogleJPMChaseMicrosoftStandard Chartered Bank and Tatiana Copeland.

Thank you to the United Nations and our sponsors. The event was a resounding success. If you couldn’t be there, you can Watch the video of the 2018 Autism Advantage Luncheon here. Or you can follow the link to watch the slide show of the event.

Programme and speakers

1:15 pm Opening

  • Welcome and introduction to Autism Advantage Luncheon 2018 theme: Employment Return on Investment: Jeff Brez, Chief NGO Relations, Advocacy and Special Events, UN Department of Public Information
  • Women and Girls with Autism (WAAD 2018 theme): Mrs. Alison Smale, Under-Secretary-General, UN Department of Public Information

1: 25 pm Perspectives

  • Government Return on Investment (ROI): Steve Wooderson, CEO, Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation
  • Autism Advantage Community ROI: David Caudel, ED, Vanderbilt Initiative for Autism Innovation and the Workforce
  • Autism Advantage ROI, leadership perspective: Mark Vandenbosch, Dean, Ivey Business School
  • Doubling Employment of People with Disabilities ROI: Senator Harkin (video)
  • Autism Advantage Exponential Growth ROI: Thorkil Sonne, Founder, Specialisterne

1:45 – 1: 55 pm Key Note

  • Looking past Limits in the Board Room: Caroline Casey, Founder, #Valuable

2:40 pm Wrap Up and looking forward to Autism Advantage Luncheon 2019: Jeff Brez

Putting people with disabilities to work in Delaware

A new exciting collaboration

Specialisterne USA and The Precisionists is working together to enable jobs for people with disabilities.

Ernie Dianastasis, a now former executive in one of the largest tech companies in Delaware, CAI, is putting his life savings at risk by launching The Precisionists. The new company’s workforce will largely be made up of people with disabilities – a class of worker largely ignored by corporate America. Nearly 57 million Americans – 20 percent of the U.S. population – live with some form of physical or mental disability, including about 112,000 Delawareans. Yet the national unemployment rate for working-age people with disabilities was 11.7 percent in 2015 – more than double the rate for the non-disabled.

Read more about The Precisionists and the background in The News Journal’s article Putting people with disabilities to work in Delaware.

Are we at the beginning of a bigger movement in diversity? Find the answer in this Forbes article

Are we at the beginning of a bigger movement in diversity? Find the answer in this Forbes article The Benefits Of Recruiting Employees With Autism Spectrum Disorder

We are experiencing a new frontier in diversity programmes. Neurodiversity is a different way of thinking diversity and is slowly changing the way companies think of Human Resources.

A New Approach to Hiring Autistic People

This Visionary May Completely Disrupt The Tech Industry As We Know It

Recently, Forbes published an article about Specialisterne’s and Specialisterne Foundation’s (former Specialist People Foundation) founder, Thorkil Sonne.

The article describes how lack of skilled workers in STEM jobs (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) correspond with some of the skills possessed by autistic people. It further describes the new approach to hiring autistic people through Work Design, Recruitment & Selection and Training & Development and how it differs from the traditional approach.

Read the full article This Visionary May Completely Disrupt The Tech Industry As We Know It

Firms are increasingly hiring employees on the spectrum. Here’s why.

More and more companies are starting to see the benefits of hiring autistic people

We are very pleased with the success of Specialisterne clients Towers Watson, SAP and HP, who are on-boarding autistic people into competitive jobs in the core of their business.

Read the BBC article: Firms are increasingly hiring employees on the spectrum. Here’s why.

Shifting the Perception of People’s Abilities

Specialisterne Founder Thorkil Sonne

Specialisterne Founder and Chairman of the Board, Thorkil Sonne, was interviewed recently for Specialisterne Foundation (former Specialist People Foundation) partner SAP’s new Diversity area on In May 2013, we announced our partnership with SAP, the aim of which was to assist us in our to goal create one million jobs for people with autism. Less than a year later, SAP has rolled out pilots in locations in India and Ireland, hiring an initial group of people on the autism spectrum, and has plans to expand to other countries in the near future. Read the full interview with Thorkil Sonne, and read what SAP is doing in the area of Diversity and Inclusion.

Specialisterne Launches in Northern Ireland

Launching Specialisterne in Northen Ireland


From left to right: Dame Stephanie Shirley, Shirley Foundation and Autism Speaks, Peter Brabazon, General Manager, Specialisterne Ireland, Sharon Didrichsen, Manager, Specialisterne Northern Ireland, Minister Stephen Farry, Department of Employment and Learning.

Specialisterne has set up operations in Belfast, Northern Ireland with the aim of helping 50 people with autism there secure professional jobs in the IT sector within the next five years.

“’We are very excited about the opportunities for Specialisterne to showcase how people with autism can excel in the work place given the right understanding and accommodation,” said Specialisterne Founder and Chairman of the Board Thorkil Sonne. “Northern Ireland has welcomed our mission with strong support from key stakeholders and we are looking forward to working with a number of different partners to begin making a difference in the community.” Continue reading

Specialisterne USA and The Arc to Work Together on US Expansion of Specialisterne Model

Specialisterne and The Arc working on US expansion

As the World Economic Forum kicks off in Davos, Switzerland, Specialisterne USA and The Arc announced a new agreement to help Specialisterne replicate its successful model of employing people with autism in the tech industry in the United States.  By utilizing The Arc’s strong network of chapters, Specialisterne USA and The Arc will expand the model to sites across the US with a goal of serving technology companies nationwide.

This is the second major partnership Specialisterne USA has secured in recent months, following last Autumn’s announcement of the partnership with with Computer Aid, Inc. (CAI). In addition, The Specialisterne Foundation (former Specialist People Foundation) entered into a partnership with technology company, SAP SE in 2013. All three agreements have the common goal to provide employment opportunities for people with autism as software testers, programmers, data quality assurance specialists and other technology positions.  Specialisterne USA , with operations in the Midwest, Mid Atlantic and Southwest regions of the US, and The Arc’s New York City chapter, AHRC New York City, began working to pilot replication of the Specialisterne model late last year in New York City.  Continue reading

Specialisterne Gain Momentum with Announcement of Upcoming Operations in Spain

Barcelona, April 22, 2013.  Specialisterne Founder Thorkil Sonne announced Monday that Specialisterne will launch operations in Spain this summer 2013. The announcement came at the “Social Innovation for Companies” event in Barcelona on Monday.  “I’m delighted to announce that we will be replicating the Specialisterne model in Spain. We believe we have a wonderful opportunity here to enable jobs for people with autism and similar challenges in the Spanish labor market, and I look forward to our collaboration.”

spain-images-300x225Organized by the City Council of Barcelona, local organization UpSocial and Obra Social “la Caixa”, and attended by over 300 people, with representatives from the social, public and private sector, the goal of the event was to showcase innovations from around the world that have been successful in improving the employment and employability of persons with disabilities. Specialisterne was one of five innovations that received special commendation, along with My Life in the UK, Shekulo Tov in Israel, Discovering Hands in Germany and Asociación Civil Andar in Argentina. Continue reading

2012 Social Entrepreneur award to Thorkil Sonne from the Schwab Foundation

Schwab_Found_NEW_Logo2012-300x162Tianjin, People’s Republic of China, 10 September 2012 

Together with twenty-five other social entrepreneurs, Thorkil Sonne of the Specialisterne Foundation (former Specialist People Foundation) have been recognized by the Schwab Foundation as 2012 Social Entrepreneur awardees. Drawn from a pool of more than 1,000 global applicants, the winners are selected in recognition of their innovative approaches and demonstrated impact. Hilde Schwab, Co-Founder and Chairperson of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, presented the awards during a reception at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting of New Champions on September 11.Hilde-Schwab-and-Thorkil-Sonne

Please read more about the details on the Annual Meeting of the New Champions 2012 and the innovative projects of each of the twenty-six social entrepreneurs.
Continue reading