“We view autism as one of our key competitive advantages,” says Tom D’Eri of Rising Tide Car Wash in Parkland, Florida, which employs 43 employees, 35 of which are on the autism spectrum. “Our employees follow processes, they’re really excited to be here, [and] they have a great eye for detail.”
Hear more of their story here:
Among adults with autism, the unemployment rate is around 90%, and yet, if you were to ask D’Eri, whose brother has autism, the market is simply not recognizing the enormous potential and unique gifts these people possess. “Typically people with autism are really good at structured tasks, following processes, and attention to detail,” he says. “So we saw that there are really important skills that people with autism have that make them, in some cases, the best employees you could have.”
God created each of us in his image, and he has blessed each of us with particular gifts, talents, and capacity, regardless of what dollar amount or career trajectory the market does or does not assign to our contributions. But we also ought not blindly assume that the market is automatically assessing those with disabilities accurately or sufficiently. When one sees the high unemployment rate for people with autism, it’s hard to believe that it’s really a matter of accurate signals of supply and demand?
What’s more likely, I’d wager, is that most of us are stuck in certain preconceptions and prejudices, and we need to expand our economic imaginations when it comes to those with disabilities. When reviewing stories like this (see also here and here), it seems far from settled that the potential of these individuals is being duly recognized, realized, and rewarded, even among those in the Christian faith-work sphere.
Given the transformative power of business and the proven ability of those with so-called “disabilities” to thrive and contribute in such settings, Christian entrepreneurs, executives, and business owners ought to heed these stories and respond in turn, challenging their typical human tendencies to box others in and impose limited notions of “value” on the contributions of others. What we see as a “disability” may very well be the exact opposite.
Not only will this lead to the flourishing of society as a whole, but among the individuals who are finally given the opportunity to work, earn, and serve.
D’Eri explains the transformation as follows:
They come to us with very little purpose, and very little hope for their future. But once they start working with us, and they start to get the positive reinforcement of doing a good job, the customer being happy, them getting a tip, that really starts to open them up. And they start to be able to think about what they might be able to do with their lives, whether that be stick with us, or go do something that’s more closely aligned with whatever their aspirations are.
If given the chance and the investment, folks with autism and others with disabilities deserve the opportunity to use the gifts God’s given them, and when they seize it, they are bound to surprise us and contribute to civilization in new and profound ways.