World Autism Awareness Day 2013 – A Day to remember
World Autism Day proved to be a day to remember for Specialisterne USA’s Southwest Region operation, beginning with a commendation in the State Senate and the State House of Representatives, and ending with a successful fundraiser. “We had a fantastic day,” says Steen Thygesen, CEO Specialisterne Foundation (former Specialist People Foundation). “Operations in the Southwest may be in their infancy, but today proved that we have already made a remarkable impact in the region. I couldn’t be more positive about the potential we have here.”
The two events honoring Specialisterne Southwest Region’s beginnings were held in Denver, Colorado on April 2, 2013. The day began auspiciously, with commendations for Specialisterne and Thygesen from both the Colorado State Senate and the Colorado House of Representatives. Senator Irene Aguilar, M.D paid tribute to Specialisterne and welcomed the organization to the state.
Following the tribute in the Senate, Steen and the Colorado Specialisterne volunteers and families representing Future Specialists, were honored in the Colorado House by Representative Dianne Primavera, who read the following commendation:
“The Colorado Senate and the Colorado House welcome Specialisterne. Specialisterne will provide Colorado’s corporate sector with access to a huge untapped pool of talents in the STEM sector, and provide high-functioning people with autism the ability to obtain meaningful and productive jobs. The Colorado General Assembly recognizes the value that Specialisterne can bring to our state and we encourage Coloradans to recognize and support the mission of Specialisterne.”
“It truly is an honor for us to be recognized in this way. And it was a unique experience to be invited into the State Senate and House of Representatives.” says Thygesen.“Having this recognition and support from the people’s representatives in this way really helps pave the way for our impact across the State of Colorado, the Southwest region and the rest of the country.”
Later, the Atypical Business Model Inaugural Event, Capitalizing on Autism as a Competitive Advantage, was held at the University of Denver. The goal of the event was to raise awareness and funds for the operational launch of Specialisterne USA, Southwest Region later this year. Many Colorado business leaders and local government officials were in attendance, including Senator Irene Aguilar and Representative Dianne Primavera, as well as Ashoka Fellow Steve Bigari.
The guest of honor, however, was Dr. Temple Grandin, Ph.D. autism activist, best-selling author and one of Time Magazine’s 2010 Most Influential People in the Heroes category. Grandin is one of the world’s most recognizable persons living and thriving with autism. Her career has provided the global community with a stellar example of the irreplaceable value that people with autism can add to the workplace through their unique perspective and approach. “My career is my life!” she said. “We have to support people on the spectrum in their passions – and we have to offer them life experiences that enable them to make career choices.”
The event was deemed a great success and included the auction of a painting of a dandelion by the contemporary artist Malcom Farley. You can still contribute by pledging online.
Betty Lehman, Specialisterne volunteer, parent to a young man with autism and former director of the Colorado Autism Society, stated at the event, “Having an appropriate job matters. Having self-esteem matters. And having hope matters. People on the spectrum deserve productive fulfilling lives just like everyone else. Specialisterne is a stellar example of what can be done to ensure that my son, and others like him, have an opportunity to gain meaningful employment. We are so excited to welcome them to the Southwest.”
Co-organizer of the event, local businessman and Specialisterne volunteer Steve Allen is optimistic about the business potential for Specialisterne Southwest Region. “From large corporations to small start-ups, and with support from the Colorado Technology Association, which represents over 600 technology companies and thousands of individual members, the consensus is that Specialisterne is a valued concept that local companies are anxious to see in operation in Colorado. Several companies including Avaya, ViaWest, and Level 3 have already offered employment or are evaluating how to implement a relationship with Specialisterne in Colorado.”
Specialisterne Southwest’s goal is to launch the first branch in Denver as a showcase operation, with initial focus on the IT and telecommunications space. “Similar to Specialisterne operations elsewhere, we will assess and train people with autism and similar challenges, and then employ them as consultants or place them into meaningful jobs within the corporate sector, supported by Specialisterne,” says Allen.
The Southwest region comprises of Colorado, Arizona, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming. Specialisterne Southwest plans to launch business operations in Denver in late 2013. The first group of candidates is expected to enter the assessment and training program in early 2014.