Danish company to create jobs for Delawareans with autism

By Mellany Armstrong 2:39pm, June 15, 2012 - Updated 3:08pm, June 15, 2012
WDEL's Mellany Armstrong reports.
A Danish non-profit organization that provides jobs for people with autism has chosen Delaware to launch its program in North America.

Thorkil Sonne, founder of Specialisterne, says he hopes to create a million jobs around the world for people with autism and similar challenges.

"The engagement from the local stakeholders is so strong here that we'd like to set this as an example for the U.S. on what can be done if the local stakeholders involve," Sonne said.

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Theda Ellis, executive director of Autism Delaware, says the jobs are sorely needed, with so many being diagnosed with autism.

"Ten years ago when I started, I don't even remember the numbers -- was it one in 500, or one in 2500? But today, it's one in 88," she said.

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Delaware's Longwood Foundation is providing a $200,000 grant and up to $400,000 in matching funds. President There du Pont:

"Businesses need the skill set of some of the higher-functioning autistic individuals that are all over the world, and specifically here in Delaware, and his organization, Specialisterne makes that possible," he said.

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Specialisterne hopes to raise $1.3 million over the next year. Sonne will be courting corporate partners as employers in Delaware, and hopes to have Specialisterne, which translates as 'The Specialist,' to be operational this fall.

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