WILMINGTON – Gov. Jack Markell welcomed the Specialisterne Foundation to Delaware during a special announcement Friday, June 15, about funding to facilitate the employment of Delawareans with high-functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Markell joined Thorkil Sonne, founder and president of The Specialisterne Foundation, and Thère du Pont, president of the Longwood Foundation, at the announcement in the Community Service Building in Wilmington, where the Specialisterne Foundation will be headquartered among other nonprofit organizations.
Two Delaware-based foundations, the Longwood Foundation and the Welfare Foundation, will provide financial support for Specialisterne in Delaware, and is inviting other stakeholders to join in the support of Specialisterne to create jobs and career opportunities for people with ASD and similar challenges.
The Longwood Foundation announced that Specialisterne Delaware has received a $200,000 grant and up to $400,000 in matching funds. Details on the Welfare Foundation grant were not immediately available.
Markell praised Specialisterne’s commitment to establishing jobs for individuals with high-functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder and for working with businesses to match people’s skills with the appropriate positions. The governor said Specialisterne’s passion and ambition for employing individuals is similar to his for the people of Delaware. “I am working to create jobs for all Delawareans, including people with a range of disabilities.”
Specialisterne (“The Specialists” in Danish) is an innovative social business concept founded in Denmark in 2004. The employees are primarily high-functioning individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), primarily Aspergers Syndrome, but many may also have ADHD, for instance. Specialisterne provides valuable services for the corporate sector on market terms, and also provides assessment, training and education services.
Specialisterne has an excellent reputation in the management and provision of software and services testing, mobile device testing, quality control and data conversion for leading companies. It invests upfront in assessing and training people to fulfill the requirements of business sectors such as IT, telecoms, healthcare, financial services and pharmaceuticals, which need people with a passion for detail, focus and perseverance.
“I think what we can do here in Delaware is set the example for the U.S., North America and the world on how stakeholders work together,” Sonne said. “If we can have a good showcase in a state of [less than] 1 million, there’s no limit. The people on the autism spectrum are there, and they want to have meaningful and productive lives.”
Specialisterne will provide sustainable employment and career opportunities for individuals who typically are kept out of the job market primarily because of their disability, despite a high functionality level. The goal of the Specialist People Foundation, the nonprofit organization that drives the Specialisterne model globally, is to enable 1 million jobs across the world for people diagnosed with ASD and similar challenges.
The Specialisterne Foundation will drive and support the adoption of the Specialisterne model across the United States. In addition to Delaware, the Specialisterne Foundation is currently working with local stakeholders in Minnesota, North Dakota, New York, Colorado, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, California and Washington to raise the needed funding to start further local operations. Sonne said he hopes to raise $1.3 million in Delaware. More states will be added in the coming years, subject to interest and local support.
Beside its origin in Denmark, Specialisterne is today present in Scotland, Iceland, Switzerland and Norway. The Specialist People Foundation is also working with England, Ireland, Poland, Germany, Austria, Spain, Turkey and Canada.
The primary focus for Specialisterne presently is ASD, a complex pervasive developmental disorder that affects a person’s communication and interaction with others. Autism is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a “spectrum disorder” that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. There is no known single cause of ASD.
The number of individuals with autism continues to grow at a rapid rate and the latest published prevalence rate from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now is 1 in 88.
Photos of the event are available at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/delawaregovernor/sets/72157630134481714/
For interested donors and grant-givers:
In the U.S., tax-exempt donations and grants for capacity building and designated project implementation support for Delaware, Minnesota, North Dakota, New York, Colorado, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, California and Washington states can be made to the Specialisterne Fund via the Delaware Community Foundation at www.delcf.org with a credit card, by check payable to Delaware Community Foundation, 100 W. 10th Street, Suite 115, Wilmington, DE 19899, or contact Thorkil Sonne at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss further.