The Specialists Guild (TSG) is a not-for-profit social enterprise established to provide training for individuals with developmental social and communication challenge, such as autism, to contribute to society in line with their intelligence and abilities and support them to develop meaningful and self-supporting careers.
In North America, autism awareness has been increasing through headlines and entertainment media content. At the same time, high functioning adults with developmental social and communication disabilities, are a forgotten segment of our society. They are usually mainstreamed through their primary and secondary education with little or no accommodation, and go on to post secondary institutions. Many are able to live independently and have many talents and abilities to contribute to society. Unfortunately, the employment recruiting environment is biased against this population due to heavy emphasis on social skills and conformance to norm. As adults, more than 85% of this population is unemployed or underemployed. The latest CDC statistic (2014) is that one in every 59 children born today will be diagnosed on the autism spectrum, so this is a serious challenge to our society.
There are many organizations focused on individuals with autism. However, in this country the current reality remains: the majority of programs are for children; when one leaves the educational system most services vanish.
Funding and resources remain disproportionately focused on the more visible and severely challenged, while much of the increase in diagnosis has been at the higher functioning end of the spectrum. The smarter and less visibly challenged a person is, the less likelihood of any societal support. The assumption is: they are smart enough to do it themselves. The reality is that our current system’s emphasis on social and communication skills fails to provide opportunities for the exceptional skills and talents of high functioning adults on the autism spectrum.
We are named The Specialists Guild with an “s” because we are all individuals. Not everyone with a specific disability is a "savant" or good only at one kind of job. Over time TSG and similar groups, will identify and develop support in a variety of different fields. TSG has chosen to focus on technology careers because:
Andy is a parent of a son with Asperger's, and has over 30 years of experience in software development, networking and real time media delivery. Most recently, he was founder and CEO of Packet Island Inc., a Cloud based tools company for converged media networks. Earlier, Andy was involved with three Silicon Valley startups as the top engineering executive. Prior to moving to California, Andy held key technical and marketing positions at Nortel and Bell Northern Research. Andy has degrees in EE and Anthropology from Canadian universities, and holds 5 patents in Communications Technology. He is a long time volunteer for causes to improve the lives of people with autism and is a member of the San Francisco Tech Council.
Alex has worked for Atari, Sega, Sony Computer Entertainment, Konami and others. He has been part of development teams which created hardware such as Atari’s “Lynx” and “Jaguar” game machines, Leapfrog’s “Leapster” educational handheld, Jhai Foundation’s ultra-low-power “JhaiComputer” for rural environments and many smaller projects such as Oddernmart’s ‘Xpander Xpansion’ kit. He has assisted in development of many video games for new platforms, working in roles ranging from Content Provider to Producer/Director. He has taught technical media courses and lectured at Art Academy University [San Francisco, CA], College of Arts & Crafts [Oakland, CA], Game Developer’s Conference [San Jose, CA]. A partial listing of Alex’s game-related work can be seen at: http://www.mobygames.com/developer/sheet/view/developerId,65176/
Luby is a parent of a son with Asperger's and has thirty years experience in the Non Profit sector in volunteer management and grant administration. She has worked for the Canadian Museums Association, the Canadian Federal Government, the Duke Medical Center and Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic. Most recently she was Center Director of Autism Social Connection in Redwood City, California. Luby has degrees in Anthropology and Education, and a Masters of Museology from Canadian universities. Luby has been involved as a volunteer, as an advocate and as a professional in causes aimed at disability awareness, and is a member of the San Francisco Tech Council.
Duke Crestfield is a pre-diagnosis era Aspie who has led a colorful life, eventually graduated from Stanford, and is a self-employed consulting engineer. He has been crafting neurodiverse cultural therapy environments since 1984, and currently mentors a dozen other Aspies. He calls it having friends, and says “I do stuff. Sometimes it works”. Some of his stuff can be found at shred-of-dignity.org.
Keith Halperin has worked in recruiting, placement, search, and research for highly diverse clients (from startups to Fortune 500 firms) throughout the San Francisco Bay Area since 1986. He conceived, designed, and implemented corporate recruiting strategies, and developed a white paper for a $70 million, 5-year NASA CS recruiting project. He developed the Recruiting Process Methodology, a comprehensive open-source roadmap of recruiting. He co-founded MyIPOJob job fairs for pre-IPO companies, and founded Recruitersforum (http://www.recruitersforum.com), an on-line job site for all types of recruiting positions. He possesses an aggressive commitment to client satisfaction.
Michael Bernick is the former director of the California Employment Development Department, serving from 1999-2004. He currently is Counsel with the Sedgwick LLP law firm in San Francisco, and a Research Fellow in Employment with the Milken Institute. He is a graduate of Harvard College (BA), Oxford University (Balliol College, B. Phil), and the University of California Boalt Hall law school. He was one of the founders of the San Francisco Renaissance Center, the job creation/job training agency, for which he served as Executive Director from 1982-1986, and was on the Board of Directors of the BART regional rail system from 1988-1996.
Steve Perricone is a serial entrepreneur with over 25 years executive experience building organizations and worldwide sales for new technologies in emerging markets. He has been involved in 5 consecutive start-up companies. Most recently he has focused on social enterprise and was founder and CEO of a for-profit company, Semperical, whose mission was to employ adults with autism to do software testing remotely by using a specialized technology platform. He was the 2009 Distinguished Alumni of the Year for the School of Business at California State University, Chico and is an Advisory Board member for both Registria Corporation and Chico State's College of Business. He is a frequent guest lecturer on entrepreneurship at universities including Stanford and his alma mater, Chico State.