Microsoft hiring 10 workers on autism spectrum

by: Joanna Small Updated:

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REDMOND, Wash. - Microsoft is hiring a very specialized employee for a new pilot program, and Tuesday parents and teens with autism tell us they are thrilled.

KIRO 7 met 18-year-old Sid Loyalka at the Academy for Precision Learning.Sid admits sometimes he has a hard time making eye contact; he's still working on his social skills.

"My mind works in a very unique way," he explained. At APL -- a private Seattle school that caters to kids on the autism spectrum -- the senior has blossomed as a computer whiz.

"I'm a very hard worker," Sid said. Yet his mother was terrified the talented teen who has Asperger syndrome may never get to prove it.

"Will companies understand him?  Because they have a lot of potential in them but how much will the companies understand if they don't try to?" Ritu Loyalka asked us.

Tuesday Ritu learned Microsoft is trying. The Redmond-headquartered company is launching a pilot program to hire 10 workers on the autism spectrum. It is working with the Danish company Specialisterne.  Its founder actually has two kids with autism of his own; the vice president of Microsoft has a son with autism as well.

Specialisterne recognized the need in the tech industry for workers not only willing to perform detail-oriented, tedious tasks but who actually enjoy them. The company now partners with other companies to connect workers with autism with those jobs.

"They love that, it's really good for them," explains Alicia Schmoker, APL's transition specialist. She says getting kids on the spectrum into college or the workforce has been a challenge.

"We're trying to break through the barrier of that stigma but it's really hard," Schmoker said.

APL said Microsoft's move will make it easier. Sid isn't ready for the tech giant yet-he's off to junior college. But his mom is breathing a sigh of relief knowing when he is ready to start a career there's not only a company willing to hire him-there's a company wanting to hire him.