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October 2011



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Aspiritech provides gainful employment for autistic adults.



Rick Alexander is a model employee.


He is conscientious and talented, having proven his abilities well enough to be called upon to lead his team on a recent project. He is committed to his craft, even devoting much of his own time at home to maintaining his technical skill set.


So, it may surprise you that when Rick was coming out of college with a degree in computer science, he could not find a job. Dozens of companies turned him down. He was not called back for a second interview even once.


That is because Rick is on the autism spectrum. And like many people with autism, Rick lacked the social skills to do well on job interviews.


A company for those with autism


Moshe and Brenda Weitzberg know how hard it is for intelligent, highly skilled people with autism to get good jobs. Their son, Oran, who has Asperger’s syndrome, a mild form of autism, had to take a job bagging groceries because no company would hire him in the technical field for which he was trained, despite the fact that he held a college degree.


The Weitzbergs, who are Highland Park residents, decided to do something about it. They conducted research and discovered that the characteristics of people with autism – sharp attention to details, ability to concentrate on repetitive tasks and technical aptitude – aligned well with software testing.


So, two years ago, they formed Aspiritech, a software testing company that employs adults with high-functioning autism.


Harnessing the talent


The company has an autism specialist, Marc Lazar, to help maximize the abilities of the individuals on this special team. Lazar explained that proactively reducing stress is key to enabling individuals with autism to perform well. Toward this, he organizes team-building social activities that also have the benefit of helping employees improve their social skills. The laid back culture is also fostered through flexible work hours and by permitting workers to take breaks as needed to be by themselves.


Lazar also helped to set up a framework that tailors the work to the needs of the employees. He places an emphasis on straightforward communications, provides clear direction and removes ambiguity in tasks.


The results have been remarkable.


After starting out in the Weitzbergs’ basement with no large-scale funding, Aspiritech now employs 15 software testers with offices in downtown Highland Park.


Moshe Weitzberg said that the company has satisfied all of their clients.


“The companies that gave us a chance are very happy.”


He attributes their success to the ability of his workers. He noted that clients have found that his team discovered up to 50 percent more bugs than typical software testers.


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