For this blog post, I wanted to veer away from the personal experiences I’ve been writing about, and focus on a few recent inspirational stories by and towards people on the spectrum around the country. Hopefully, showcasing these actions will brighten your day this holiday season. Personally, it warms my heart knowing that there are so many out there who care about the struggles people on the spectrum frequently face, and that we can make a difference if we set our minds to it.
The first story I want to share is that of Mike and Eddie Tuckerman, the 18 year-old twins from Philadelphia who recently started their own business! The name of the company is Tuckerboys Noveltees, and they have had a great deal of success selling wrapping paper. The catch is, the paper features the twins’ own original artwork. So not only are they gaining valuable experience in learning how to run a business, they’re turning something they love to do (art) into a job. The Tuckermans’ mother, Sue, learned about the staggering 90% unemployment rate among adults on the spectrum, and wanted to find her kids something to do to keep them busy. Thus, Tuckerboys Noveltees was born. Some of their proceeds are even going towards charity! Great job, boys.
Next up on the list comes all the way from Alaska (can’t get much further from Florida than that!). An angry customer called the Little Italy Restaurante to complain about one of their delivery drivers, using foul and hurtful language all the while. The customer accused the driver of being incompetent, and a drug user. The truth is, that employee had both autism and a speech impediment, and when he returned to the restaurant, he told his boss, P.J. Gialopsos, that the customer had harassed him as well. So Gialopsos decided to take a stand; she “fired” the customer, telling her employees to not take any calls or orders from him anymore. But she wasn’t done there. She posted about the incident on the restaurant’s Facebook page, and it unexpectedly went viral, gaining more than 14,000 likes and over 1,500 mostly positive comments. In interviews, Gialopsos has gone on to praise the employee (who wishes to stay anonymous), calling him a talented and hard worker. The overwhelmingly positive response just goes to show that most people in this day and age are compassionate and understanding towards individuals on the spectrum.
Finally, I want to talk about probably the two most famous stories that have occurred in the past few months in regards to autism. And that is the two mall Santas, one from North Carolina, and the other from Michigan, who showed incredible patience and kindness to a couple of kids on the spectrum. The boy from Michigan, Landon Johnson, is a huge fan of Santa and the Christmas season. He and his four cousins went to the mall hoping to get pictures with Santa, and when it was his turn, he received the best gift he could ask for. He told Santa he was afraid that he would be put on the naughty list because of his autism, and Santa told him how good of a boy he’s been, and to just keep being himself, a lesson Landon’s mother had been trying to teach him for years now. Now Landon has more confidence in himself, telling his mom later, “Mommy, it’s OK for me to be me. Santa said so.” The other Santa from North Carolina is a classic case of someone going above and beyond to make another happy. Brayden Deely, one of the boys at an Autism Speaks Caring Santa event refused to sit on Santa’s lap, so instead, Santa came to him. He got down on his belly so that he could play with the shy Brayden. The two just bonded for a little while, and eventually Brayden warmed up, and his parents were able to get the pictures they coveted so much. Just doing that little bit extra can mean so much to someone struggling on the spectrum, and I want to personally thank these Santas for being so understanding.