In San Jose, the company Semperical plans to exclusively hire autistic software testers who work from home to spare them the stress of commuting and office politics. San Francisco's Specialists Guild trains autistic interns as software testers and then places them in full-time positions at companies like SalesForce.
Earlier this year, the global software giant SAP announced plans to hire 650 software testers who have autism. The mortgage finance company Freddie Mac launched an internship program to teach adults data analysis. Goodwill says it plans to offer positions in data entry and other technical jobs. Walgreens trains autistic workers to set up displays, work the cash register and stock and organize shelves.
This is the challenge: An estimated 750,000 adolescents with autism are about to become adults. They are woefully unprepared to leave the "safety net" of the well-funded educational system, said Peter Gerhardt, director of adolescent education at the McCarton School in New York City.
Most will graduate out of high school to nothing; about 85 percent will be under or unemployed, and live with family members. They'll sit at home -- and a parent often has to sit at home. And when parents die, their children may go into state-run institutional services.
"What could we do if our corporate talent included those who are now locked at home, playing video games?" asked Perricone.