Teen With Autism Didn’t Think He Could Be A Barista; Then He Started Dancing

Sam has a movement disorder, but a Toronto Starbucks manager encouraged him to “channel his movements into dance.”

01/27/2016 12:48 am ET

Sam thought he’d never be able to get a job as a barista. The Toronto teen has autism with a movement disorder, and feared he wouldn’t be able to work behind a coffee counter because of the sudden movements he sometimes makes.

But the manager at a local Starbucks believed in him and gave him a chance. Sam is now thriving at his new job thanks to an unexpected medium: dance.

In a viral video posted on YouTube this week by Carly Fleischmann, Sam is seen doing a java jive while whipping up Starbucks beverages. According to Fleischmann, who herself has autism and has blogged extensively about her experiences, the Starbucks manager was the person who encouraged Sam to “channel his movements into dance.”

The store manager, Chris Ali, told CTV News this week that they’d “stumbled upon Sam’s talent” for dancing while the pair listened to music at work.

“It was something that kind of came along. Sam is a great character and he loves to dance,” he said. “Bringing dance to his routines at work really helped focus on settling down some of his movement disabilities he's had.”

Ali added that the dancing has also helped boost Sam’s self-confidence. 

“When he was offered a position to work at Starbucks, Sam told his parents that for the first time ... his life had real meaning,” wrote Fleischmann in a Facebook post. “It has taken Sam and Chris a lot of shifts and hours to get Sam to do what he is doing in the video ... If it wasn't for Chris believing in Sam he would [have] never believed in himself.”

Sam, Fleischmann noted, has come to be known as the “dancing barista.” Ali told CTV News that customers love the teen's dancing routine, and that many visit the store just to see him groove. 

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