A father-son team launched a car wash to help an underemployed population make a splash on job scene.
John and Tom D’Eri recently spoke to Nation Swell about their plans to expand their Florida car wash, where 80 percent of the employees have autism.
The family originally founded the company, Rising Tide, in 2013 to provide employment for John’s other son, Andrew, who is autistic.
At the time, Andrew was about to turn 22, an age experts say is a pivotal year for many people with autism as they often face challenges attempting to enter the work force.
The unemployment and underemployment rate for people on the spectrum is around 90 percent. Resources and employment options for this group can be scarce, with many forced to live at home or in an institution, a point highlighted in an ABC News feature.
"What we find in the autism community is that when someone turns 22 and ages out of the school system, there is very little meaningful activity. In the autism community we call that, 'falling off the cliffs,'" Andrew's brother, Tom, told NationSwell.
Today, Rising Tide car wash employs about 35 individuals with some form of autism -- a few of whom have already been promoted, NBC News reported
Prior to starting their business, John and Tom spent two years researching the best job options for those with autism. They found that a car wash was a good fit, as experts have pointed out that people with the disorder often thrive in a job environment that requires repetition. They also believed that a car wash would demonstrate to the public that people with autism are valuable members of the workforce.
"We view autism as one of our key competitive advantages," Tom told NationSwell.
The car wash is expected to expand to three locations by 2016, employing more than 150 workers on the autism spectrum, according to NationSwell.
Ultimately, Tom told WPTV that more employers should see the value in hiring people with autism:
"We as a society look at autism as a disability that requires sympathy, instead of a diversity that can be valuable in the workplace."