Highland Park company helps people with autism get jobs

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Sunday, May 8, 2016
Disability Report
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Disability Report

HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. (WLS) -- A suburban Highland Park company is leading the way to providing job training and jobs for people with autism.

Aspiritech's efforts to give those with autism real and meaningful full-time employment also is getting the attention of the global corporate community.

Most of these people at the company fall somewhere on the autism spectrum. It was founded by parents who wanted to helped their own autistic son after he'd just lost his job at a grocery store.

"He had completed a four-year university, Roosevelt University, and really struggled to obtain and maintain employment after that. And I thought something's got to be done," said Brenda Weitzberg, founder of Aspiritech.

As a result, she and her husband Moshe started Aspiritech, a company which tests software for quality assurance.

"The strength of autism such as attention to detail, the ability to focus for long periods of time, technology skills, strong visuals, perception, all those fit beautifully with the task of software testing," Weitzberg said.

Since its launch in 2008, the company has trained hundreds of young adults who are living with autism.

However, thousands more have applied - a sign that there is simply a major shortage of jobs for these young adults. Those who do get hired find a lot of satisfaction in the work.

"Mostly it's in seeing products go out and knowing that myself and the rest of the team is we're the reason why it's working properly," said Eric States, an Aspiritech software testing engineer.

The company also has two autism specialists on hand to help the newly employed get used to a work environment.

"Just over time, they really start getting that confidence and that's the best thing to see," said Tory Pena, an autism specialist.

The nonprofit company has racked up an impressive list of clients, including Bose, Empire Carpet and many others.

"I've been part of quality assurance organizations for 25 years and these people really understand quality and how to do it the right way," said Jeff New, of Zebra Technologies.

The proof is that Aspiritech is doing something right.

"There are now almost 35 people here who have become really valuable software testers, quality assurance engineers for Fortune 500 companies and others. Can we afford to waste that talent?" Weitzberg said.

Aspiritech is hoping for even more companies so that they can hire even more people.

In addition, they are currently starting to train other agencies to do what they are already doing in Highland Park.

And the company is working with nonprofits from around the world.