Icelandic Company Plans Hiring of Autistic Individuals Skip to content

Icelandic Company Plans Hiring of Autistic Individuals

If everything goes according to plan, the Icelandic company Sérfraedingarnir (“The Specialists”) will train and hire up to 18 autistic individuals to work on projects on the regular employment market.

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The documentary A Mother’s Courage: Talking Back to Autism (aka The Sunshine Boy) helped spark the idea for the project.

The company is based on the model of the Danish company Specialisterne which has raised worldwide attention for its methods of evaluating and training individuals on the autistic spectrum and then finding projects for them to work on connected with software testing and other precision work at companies such as Microsoft, Oracle, Cisco and Lego, Fréttabladid reports.

Sérfraedingarnir is a non-profit organization founded by the Autism Association in Iceland and people who are interested in improving the employment opportunities of autistic individuals, according Hjördur Grétarsson, chairman of Sérfraedingarnir.

“A big part of the project is to move knowledge from Denmark to Iceland to service these individuals, obtain connections within the employment market and frame projects for this group,” Grétarsson said.

The project has received sponsorship from the European Union Leonardo program which was sufficient enough to enable its launch. The Laugardalur Service Center, which is a knowledge center for people with disabilities, leads the project.

Grétarsson said operations have to be secured for three to four years before the work can begin. “We need approximately 12 million [USD 108,000, EUR 77,000] per year to pay for analysis and training but we hope everything else will be sustainable.”

He wants people to stop looking at autism as a disability. “Let’s try to look at these individuals through their strengths. Those who could take advantage of this training are those who people know as ‘nerds’ and who can specialize to a larger extent than others; they are sometimes called eccentrics.”

“In the future they can solve various problems that require precision, certainly in the software sector but also in a number of other fields. I know individuals who have an IQ of 160-170 but sit at home with nothing to do. This is a platform for geniuses lacking projects,” Grétarsson said.

Those who will be trained will be employed by Sérfraedingarnir, which will take on projects like any other software center selling its services. “However, they will not be tied down by the company, they can use it as a springboard into life,” Grétarsson concluded.

In Iceland there are around 2,000 individuals on the autistic spectrum, only about half of whom have been diagnosed; 500 are probably older than 22.

A large number of these people are unemployed, receive disability benefits or are in jobs where their talents aren’t taken advantage of.

Thorkil Sonne, the founder of Specialisterne, visited Iceland in January 2009 at the invitation of the Autism Association and the initiative of Margrét Dagmar Ericsdóttir, the producer of the documentary A Mother’s Courage: Talking Back to Autism, which mentions Specialisterne.

Sonne’s visit sparked the idea of launching a similar company in Iceland.

Click here to read more about the documentary and related news.

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