Autistic Workers Are Given a Chance to Change Their Lives at This Florida Cafe

Faith in humanity restored! Artistas Cafe in Tampa, Florida has hired some very special workers to man the coffee shop, and you'd never guess what makes them so remarkable.

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This cafe has decided to focus on giving jobs to young adults with autism, and has subsequently shed a lot of light on a growing epidemic. According to a recent report, 500,000 people with autism will turn 18, and finding jobs is going to be difficult for them.

But thanks to a Mercedez-Benz dealership with a coffee bar, at least some of these kids are going to find employment. Vicky Westra founded the coffee shop in the dealership -- partly because she's clearly an awesome person, and also because she has a daughter with autism.

"I also have a daughter with autism, so I share the journey with so many parents who have the concern that what is this world going to be for my child?" she explained. "When they turn 18-22, doesn't seem to be a lot of options still for young people with autism."

Artistas Cafe has been going strong since 2011, and currently Vicky has eight autistic employees. They work to make drinks and snacks for customers, run the cash register, and other useful business skills.

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Most of the customers don't even realize that these awesome kids have overcome challenges to get into the workforce. Vicky confirmed, saying, "They don't recognize that 100 percent of front line team members have a diagnosis of autism and when they find out a lot of them are surprised."

I completely love this project. I have an autistic family member; who also happens to be one of the best people I've ever met. Sometimes, people just need a place to know they belong, and can contribute to others, and this is such an awesome way to provide that. 

Thanks to people like Vicky Westra, a lot of kids are going to learn valuable skills in a safe place, and find their niches. She's not just providing jobs for a handful of autistic kids in Florida -- she's bringing up an important issue that needs addressing.

 

Image via © 3photo/Corbis

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