Florida's Rising Tide Car Wash is not your average car wash business. What makes them stand apart from the rest is not their services or even their prices. It's their employees: 80 percent of them have autism.
Rising Tide was launched by a father-son team in 2013 with one major goal in mind — to help people with autism find meaningful work as adults. The reason that John and Tom D'Eri are so passionate about helping adults with autism is Andrew. John's son and Tom's younger brother, Andrew was diagnosed with autism at age three.
When Andrew was in school, there were a number of programs in place to help him adjust to his environment and engage with his community. But once Andrew reached adulthood, those programs dried up, and there is little meaningful work that he can do on a daily basis.
"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,'" Tom D'Eri said in a recent interview with NationSwell.
So John and Tom decided to launch a business with Andrew in mind. The duo spent two years researching the best job opportunities for people with autism before deciding on a car wash — a business with tasks that require attention to detail and repetition — perfect for someone with autism. They also felt that a car wash would offer a good way for the public to interact with people autism and see how much this community has to offer.
Today, two years after the business first launched in Parkland, Rising Tide Car Wash has 43 employees — 35 of whom have been diagnosed with autism. They hope to have three locations by 2016, which means they will be able to hire even more employees with autism.
The D'Eri team hope that Rising Tide will offer a place and purpose for adults with autism, and convince more employers to 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," Tom told NationSwell.
Take a look behind the scenes at the car wash that is making a splash for adults with autism: