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DHSS Press Release

Rita Landgraf, Secretary
Jill Fredel, Director of Communications
302-255-9047, Pager 302-357-7498

Date: June 11, 2012


WILMINGTON (June 8, 2012) - Governor Jack Markell will attend a ribbon-cutting and announcement on June 15, 2012 at 10 a.m. for the Specialisterne Foundation in Delaware. The Danish non-profit organization will announce employment opportunities for Delawareans with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders using its highly successful model already established in Denmark, Scotland, Iceland, Switzerland and Norway. The foundation's goal is to establish one million jobs across the world for people diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders and similar challenges.

The event will be held at the Community Service Building at 100 West 10th Street in Wilmington. In addition to the Governor, other attendees will include Thorkil Sonne, founder and president of the Specialisterne Foundation, Inc.; There du Pont, president of the Longwood Foundation; and Rita Landgraf, secretary of the Department of Health and Social Services.

Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are a group of developmental disabilities that can cause social and communications challenges. As a "spectrum disorder," ASDs affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. While there is no known single cause, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 88 Americans has an ASD.

"Everyone should have the opportunity to put their time and talent to work - to make the most of what they've been given," Governor Jack Markell said. "We should celebrate Specialisterne for its commitment to making that opportunity more real for people ready and willing to contribute."

Specialisterne ("the specialists" in Danish) employs primarily high-functioning individuals with ASDs, mainly Asperger syndrome, with many having a second or third diagnosis as well. The goal is to provide sustainable employment and career opportunities for individuals who typically are kept out of the job market primarily because of their disability, despite their high functionality level.

Specialisterne also provides valuable services for the corporate sector on market terms, while offering assessment and training services. According to Thorkil Sonne, founder and president of Specialisterne Foundation, Inc., the strong memory, pattern-recognition skills and perseverance that are shared by people with ASD are "a natural advantage" in software testing, quality control and data entry.

"Since Specialisterne was founded in 2004 we have developed a unique approach to identify and develop the potential in high-functioning people with autism and establish comfort zones in which they can use their special talents to solve valuable tasks for the corporate sector," said Thorkil Sonne, founder of Specialisterne and President of Specialisterne Foundation, Inc., Wilmington, Del. "The model of Specialisterne has already changed the lives of many individuals and their families, and it is with great excitement that we now are able to bring the benefits of Specialisterne to the citizens of the United States."

"We have been increasingly active in the country for the last couple of years, and have much momentum building nationwide," Sonne added. "The strong dedication from stakeholders has made it a natural choice for us to focus on Delaware as the first state for Specialisterne, and we look forward very much to working with local stakeholders to create win-win situations for the corporate sector, individuals, families and the state as an example for the United States."

The Specialisterne employment model is enjoying strong interest from countries worldwide where innovative yet proven solutions to social challenges are being sought. The nonprofit organization spearheading the global proliferation of the Specialisterne concept, the Specialist People Foundation, is in the process of bringing the model to numerous other new locations including England, Ireland, Poland, Germany, Austria, Spain, Turkey, and Canada.

The Specialisterne Foundation, which is incorporated in Delaware, is also currently working with local stakeholders in Minnesota, New York, Colorado, Virginia, Pennsylvania, California and Washington to raise the needed funding to start further local operations in the United States.

For more information about Specialisterne, go to,, or contact Thorkil Sonne at

Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations.