International Specialisterne Community

Specialisterne Foundation

Specialisterne Foundation is a non-for-profit organization that works to enable one million jobs for people with autism and similar challenges. The foundation owns Specialisterne Denmark and the Specialisterne concept and trademark.


The 2017 Autism Advantage Luncheon focused on issues related to talent and career development for autistic persons, and the benefits to employers of tapping their often unique skills. The luncheon’s purpose was to provide an opportunity to follow up on the initiatives that employers highlighted at previous World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD) events at the United Nations, as well as the Call to Action launched by former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the 2015 observance.


The luncheon was attended by 161 participants representing 20 countries and 28 employers. Stakeholders including employers, academics, government and community representatives discussed best practices aimed at providing employment opportunities for autistic persons, as called for by Article 27 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The event was organized by the United Nations Department of Global Communications (previously the Department of Public Information), in collaboration with Specialisterne Foundation. It was co-sponsored by the Permanent Missions of Armenia, Bulgaria, Denmark, Ecuador, Israel, Kazakhstan and Poland, and organized with the support of SAP, Google, Microsoft and Jeffery R. and Katie C. Nelson Family Foundation.


The program brought together a number of speakers who represented different sectors and perspectives.



Toward Autonomy and Self-Determination (WAAD 2017 theme): Mr. Maher Nasser –

United Nations Department of Global Communications

Human Rights and Quality of Life: Mr. Scott Badesch – Autism Society of America



Progress on Call to Action to employers at previous UN World Autism Awareness Events: Ms. Anka Wittenberg – SAP, Germany

Video message – HPE, Australia

Mr. Thorkil Sonne – Specialisterne Foundation, Denmark



Social impact of employment in a large developing market: Ms. Hong Wen – China Association of Persons with Psychiatric Disability and their Relatives, China



Preparing students for careers: Ms. Constance Wickes – Hill Top Prep School, U.S.

Community model for employment: Ms. Jennifer Frist, Nashville, U.S.

Autism and Agriculture, Mr. Robert van Barneveld – Sun Pork, Australia



Coolabilities: Mr. David Nordfors/ Mr. Vint Cerf (video) – I4J, Sweden/USA

The Autism Advantage: Mr. Prof. Robert Austin, Ivey Business School, Canada


Wrap up, next steps

Mr. Jeffrey Brez – United Nations Department of Global Communications

Mr. Thorkil Sonne – Specialisterne Foundation, Denmark



You can watch the full event on UN Web TV

Coolabilities: Mr. David Nordfors/ Mr. Vint Cerf (video) – I4J, Sweden/USA