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Propelling Autism Inclusivity


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Tom D’Eri is the co-founder and COO of Rising Tide Car Wash, an organization that employs over 90 individuals with autism. He’s also the author of the new book, The Power of Potential: How a Non-Traditional Workforce Can Lead You to Run Your Business Better.

In this episode of Motivational Mondays, Tom shares how his business successfully employs people on the autism spectrum (and how yours can, too).

The mission of The Power of Potential

When Tom’s family found out his brother had autism, they knew they needed to step up and take action to help him live the life he was fully capable of. They started Rising Tide Car Wash specifically to employ people with autism. They aren’t solving autism problems—they’re solving business problems by designing inclusive systems and processes.

Tom wrote his book to share what he’s learned about hiring, structure in the workplace, developing people, and more. He knew it would help small- and medium-sized businesses attract talent, differentiate their brands, and provide jobs for people with autism.

Autism inclusivity in all organizations

Many organizations struggle to find great employees in entry-level roles. They’ve likely never thought to employ individuals with autism. But when the conversation is started, they’re worried that they'll fail. What if they have to fire someone with autism?

Tom wants to shift the focus away from offering a job as being charitable and that’s why he encourages employers to create an objective hiring process. At Rising Tide, they have a fair, standardized evaluation process that allows them to pinpoint who might not interview well or doesn’t have great verbal communication skills.

Employment statistics for people with autism

Sixteen percent of those on the autism spectrum have a significant intellectual disability and 84 percent of autistic people have normal, above average, or slightly below average IQ. Everyone in that group is employable.
Around 90 percent of people with autism are unemployed. Many people with autism struggle with their inability to interact. While someone may qualify for a role, they may not present well in a normal interview setting. Hiring based only on resumes and interviews isn’t ideal.

It can be a struggle to source people with autism because they’ve been turned down for so many jobs that they’re no longer looking. That’s why Tom reaches out to job coaches, community liaisons, local nonprofits, and special education teachers with whom he has existing relationships.

Listen to this episode to learn about...

[0:31] The mission of Tom’s new book, The Power of Potential
[2:35] Encouraging other businesses to support workers with autism
[6:48] Why DEI training must include people with disabilities
[9:45] Building a support system for families of autistic people
[12:10] Tom’s experience growing up with an autistic sibling
[15:17] The statistics on employment rates for people with autism
[22:36] How to source talent on the autism spectrum 
[24:28] Why Tom’s family decided to launch a carwash

Listen to the bonus episode to learn the power of making a difference in other’s lives and why people with autism are resilient employees.