Scheme aims to create jobs for those with autism


People with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and their families have welcomed an initiative that will create up to 50 jobs for those with the disorder over the next five years.

Specialisterne Ireland will assess and develop the potential of high-functioning people with ASD to use their specialist skills in the workplace. Based in the Dublin offices of software company SAP, the company is already working with Microsoft and Accenture on employment opportunities for 2013.

Founded in 2004 by Danish IT executive Thorkil Sonne on observing the skills of his son who has autism – “a structured mind, good memory, pattern recognition skills and perseverance with repetitive tasks” – Mr Sonne has since worked with companies like Nokia, Deloitte and Cisco to find jobs for those with ASD.

Unfilled IT jobs

Of the 4,500 unfilled IT jobs in Ireland, he said “there are many Irish ASD young adults capable of taking up these jobs”.

Leaving Cert student Adam Harris, a person with Asperger syndrome, said Specialisterne Ireland would bridge a gap for those with ASD.

He said while progress had been made to support those with autism throughout their education, “there is a lack of a real plan for what people do after they leave education.”

Mr Harris, who is the brother of Fine Gael TD Simon Harris, said Specialisterne Ireland, “looked at ability and not disability”.

‘Bankable skill’

Technology entrepreneur and mother of two children with autism Lisa Domican said of her son Liam (15), “for the first time we’ve felt some positivity about his future”.

“Rather than him sitting in a day centre in three years, my hope is that he will be working with Specialisterne and have a really bankable skill.”

Mrs Domican, founder of GraceApp, an app which can help those with autism to communicate, said yesterday’s launch, at a time when the carer’s respite grant was being debated, was timely.

“I don’t want to be in that category, but unfortunately I am. I’d love to be a successful entrepreneur instead of being a carer . . . I’d love to see Liam employed in that field or be an employee of my business.”

Specialisterne Ireland chief executive Mary Ann McCormack said, “We will be looking to bringing our first team on board early in the new year.”