Autism job program


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We've all seen autistic people portrayed on tv and in movies...

(Excerpt from the movie Mercury Rising) “We slipped the code in the back of a puzzle magazine, we basically dared the amateurs to take a crack, and we were sure no one would ever call. But somebody did".

Hidden geniuses who are often socially awkward and misunderstood… “You're telling me a 9 year old kid cracked a government supercode?"

"I've had a lot of difficulty with all this stuff. Anxiety, I've actually had a few panic attacks over the years, and what we've termed meltdowns," explains Charlie.

But now there's hope in the form of a new program giving people on the autism spectrum a chance at professional jobs suited to their skill set.

The program called Dandelion is the brain child of Danish entrepreneur Thorkil Sonne who started up the specialist people foundation after his own son, who has autism, was struggling to find a job.

"He has so many skill sets, trustworthy, caring child when he's in his comfort zone but outside his comfort zone he's challenged," says Thorkil.

The program has just started in Australia, with IT computer company Hewlett-Packard and the Department of Human Services teaming up to offer 11 new jobs in Adelaide.

Human Services Minister Marise Payne… "It's about placing someone who may not otherwise been able to find a job in the broader job market, in a very, very, precise location where their capacity for attention to detail and their capacity for a long attention span is exactly what we need".

"It's a four week assessment training model. The first week is where we build the individuals comfort zone, many have never been in a work setting before," explains Thorkil.

Charlie stone is one of the new employees… "I was 80 percent certain I wasn't going to get anything out of it, then I got the call back for the four weeks and I thought, yeah that was a pretty good feeling, then when they told me I got the job, I ended up doing this stupid little happy dance."

"How hard has it been for you to find a job up until now?”

“Impossible, is really the only word for it," says Charlie.

Despite his qualifications, when it came to job interviews Charlie's anxiety took over.

A similar story for his colleague Robert Tedesco.

"I'm trained in engineering, did a civil structure engineering degree at the University of Adelaide and I graduated in 2014,” says Robert.

“With some pretty impressive results?”

“Yes I managed to get first class honours," says Robert.

Now they're both employed thanks to the program which cuts out the stressful interview process.

"When we come into interviews people might see us and kind of keep a bit of distance ‘cause we're a bit loud, a bit different to what people expect of us," says Robert.

The Specialist People Foundation's aim is to create one million jobs for people with autism.

"It makes sense to talk about millions because it's really the change of the labour market which is our goal," says Thorkil.

With the program now in 13 countries... It's well and truly on its way.


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