Thorkil Sonne is not a household name. Nevertheless, he is a pioneer in changing the perception that the world has of those on the spectrum. Sonne, a Dane, was the technical director of a software company when he noticed that his son, who is on the spectrum, had a keen eye for detail, great persistence, and a phenomenal memory. What Sonne noticed is that his son had just the skills that his company looked for in its employees, in its software testers. Sonne set up a company to employ those on the spectrum, a company that now has offices in 12 countries including the United States. That was 10 years ago, and in the ensuing decade any number of businesses, large and small, have followed suit. We have often written not only about Sonne’s company, Specialisterne (the Specialists), but about others who have employed those on the spectrum as software testers. Does this mean that the only viable option for our students is in such employment, in such a field? Is that the real message of Sonne’s pioneering effort? On the contrary, I believe the real message is something different, something much more fundamental.
The real message of Sonne’s pioneering effort is nothing short of a determination to change the mind-set of the public regarding autism. It is about his refusal to be satisfied with having a son grow up with limits to employment, to growth, to acceptance. It is a determination that students on the spectrum be able to accomplish great things, that the limits they have are their own, not pre-determined. It is no matter whether our students choose music or mathematics as a career, physics or poetry. What does matter is that we support them in every way possible. We want them to have the opportunity to do in school what schools do best, to be provided a variety of options from which to choose, to learn a variety of things about many subjects in as much depth and detail as their interest and capacity allow.
At Village Glen, we support our students emotionally, behaviorally and academically. We offer variety and depth to their classes, and we believe that they are capable of great things. Who would believe anything less?