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An Odyssey to Glasgow

  • 10 Jun 2021 12:30
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Carol Evans, director of the National Autistic Society in Scotland and Northern Ireland, who has been instrumental in helping Specialisterne to map out their plans for a UK expansion, told The Herald she was now "cautiously optimistic" that the project would get the final go-ahead within the next few months.

Last April Specialistesterne a pioneering Danish computer company focused on  recruiting workers with autism announced it would be setting up its first UK branch in Glasgow within the next few months. Now eighteen months later the promise looks like holding good.

"It's tantalisingly close," she said. "It would just be fantastic for Scotland because there's nothing else like it, and I know that the Scottish Government wants it."

Specialisterne was started by Dane Thorkil Sonne, (right) whose own son has autism. Realising autistic people were largely excluded from employment as a result of communication difficulties, Sonne decided to put their natural aptitudes to use in his own company. In March 2008 he was honored with Denmark's IT Award for outstanding contributions to IT development.

The award bestowed on Sonne because "these highly gifted people require special support to get on in society — but via their particular logical skills and sense for precision, can contribute massively.

If there is one job that many software analysts and programmers cannot stand, it is testing software on the path to launch."

The grinding concentration and repetitive nature of the tasks serve to drive many techies around the bend. In a case co-authored by Harvard Business School Professor Robert D Austin, "Specialisterne: Sense & Details," the innovative consultancy in Denmark has turned testing into its own specialty.

Ms Evans explained: "It's the kind of work that people who perhaps aren't so obsessive or such logical and ordered thinkers would just absolutely go brain-dead trying to do, because it's just primarily software testing.

"[Many] with Asperger's can be incredibly routine and detail-focussed, so computing, engineering and subjects that require a level of attention to detail, many of them find incredibly easy, whereas the rest of us would just throw our hands up in despair. But our clients actually revel in that environment."

According to a survey carried out last year by the NAS, only 13% of adults with autism in Scotland are in employment, and 52% are financially dependent on their families.

Specialisterne reportedly hopes to hire some 50 workers in its first three years of operating in Scotland. It is currently hoping to secure significant funding from the Big Lottery Fund in order to get the project of the ground.

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