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05/22/2013

German firm SAP on autistic employee drive

Autismproject
A group of Star journalists and editors spent months producing the acclaimed Autism Project. Many stories dealt with helping autistic adults fit into society and find jobs.

The German software giant SAP is on a recruitment drive for autistic adults to test some of their information technology products.

The company announced on Tuesday that they will work with the Danish firm Specialisterne to hire autistic adults as software testers, programmers and data quality assurance specialists.

SAP has set a goal of making sure 1 per cent of their global workforce of 65,000 are autistic by 2020, the BBC reports.

A staggering 1 in 88 people are autistic and the rates are consistently climbing, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Autism is a neurological disorder that traps children in their own minds, often leaving them unable to communicate, socialize or reach their potential without intensive and expensive intervention therapy.

"By concentrating on the abilities that every talent brings to the table, we can redefine the way we manage diverse talents," said Luisa Delgado, an executive board member at SAP, in a release. "With Specialisterne, we share a common belief that innovation comes from the 'edges.' Only by employing people who think differently and spark innovation will SAP be prepared to handle the challenges of the 21st Century."

Specialisterne was founded by Thorkil Sonne. The father of an autistic son, Sonne quit his lucrative job, mortgaged his house and formed Specialisterne, which translates into English as the "Specialists," to help adults on the autism spectrum find employment. Sonne's son, Lars, was diagnosed with autism when he was 2.

Sonne, an IT specialist, was struck by how remarkably adept some autistic children are with technology.

“I could see the skills, and I could see the need in the corporate sector for these skills,” he previously told the Star. Sonne's firm has now expanded to Poland, Iceland, Norway, Ireland, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, the U.S. and the U.K.

SAP has already hired autistic adults in India and Ireland on pilot projects and both were successful, the company said. SAP will expand their program, this year, to Canada, Germany and the United States.

MORE: An eRead version of the Autism Project is coming soon from StarDispatches.com

Tanya Talaga is the Star's global economics reporter. She was also part of a team of Star journalists who produced an in-depth, award winning investigation called the Autism Project.  Follow her on Twitter @tanyatalaga

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