Danish company certifies people with autism

Education and exam form developed in cooperation with Danish IT Society and development company Delta.

People with autism rarely have diplomas. Many lack the piece of paper showing that they have finalized school because exams are too much of an obstacle.

This limits their career opportunities, and many never get a job because their handicap requires different settings than most Danish workplaces offer.

Fortunately, there is an IT company called Specialisterne. This is Danish for "The Specialists."

With few exceptions, the company only employs people who are normally not seen in Danish workplaces. Three out of four employees have ASD. Most have Asperger's Syndrome, which is a mild type of autism but a neutral incurable handicap.

Last week, the first three software testers were ISEB test certified, and according to Thorkil Sonne, founder and CEO of Specialisterne, the plan is for all employees to be certified within the areas where it is possible to achieve internationally recognized proficiency diplomas and certificates.

"Introducing a certification program is a milestone for us. People with autism do not have many things on their CV. Our objective is for everyone to go through the program," he says.

Does well in school

A person with Asperger's Syndrome is as capable of going to school and learning. But new surroundings, unfamiliar situations and unknown people are generally difficult for these people to handle.

Because of this, many have difficulties taking an exam.

"Many did very well in school, but not when it came to tests. Therefore, they do not have the diploma they were supposed to have," general manager Lisbeth Zornig Andersen explains.

Therefore, exams in connection with test certifications must take place in an environment that is secure for Specialisterne's employees, and they therefore take place in the company's offices in a suburb of Copenhagen.

The untraditional education and exam form was developed in cooperation with the Danish IT Society, which is in charge of certifications, and the development company Delta, which supplies teaching resources.

All about self-understanding

It may be argued that a certificate is not significant if a person already has a job her or she likes. But this is not Specialisterne's way of thinking.

"The certifications are about the self-understanding of the company and its employees. It also relates to customers' security," says Sonne.

Many of Specialisterne's 50 employees solve tasks for external customers although it requires some preparation, both for the customer and for Specialisterne.

But Specialisterne's employees are fabulous software testers. Their error rates are extremely low, and they often solve software tasks faster than average in the industry," says Sonne.

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Torben Daarbak

Computerworld Danmark
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