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Business Builds Itself Around Workers With Autism


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In a what’s being billed as a first-of-its-kind approach, a new car wash is staffed almost entirely by people with autism and backers of the company are looking to take the model national.

The Rising Tide Car Wash — which opened its doors in Parkland, Fla. this month — is built around the idea that people with autism excel at repetitive, structured tasks.

The business’s founders say the concept is to provide a high-quality product while playing off the strengths of a workforce that’s desperately in need of employment opportunities.

“By leveraging the talents of individuals with autism, we are turning a disability into a successful business strategy,” said John D’Eri who started the company with his son Thomas in an effort to create work opportunities for his other son Andrew, 21, who has autism, and those like him.

In order to make the venture a success, those behind Rising Tide worked with experts at the University of Miami and Nova Southeastern University to structure the work environment for people with autism and define the 46 steps to washing a car.

Already, the car wash claims to be the “largest single store retail employer of individuals with autism.”

D’Eri said he plans to scale the model with locations across the country.

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Comments (13 Responses)

  1. NYCBob says:

    What is often forgotten is that those of with us with autism are capable of much more than menial labor. I may have had my problems, but I was more than capable to operate at a much higher level. While I was happy when I was doing a lower level of challenging work, I was capable of much much more … and was pretty successful. Don’t sell the abilities of us with autism short.

  2. Whitney says:

    I support employment but I am not sure this step in right direction. Autism have varying skills not all suited washing a car. I think there is need for different types of business that hire people with Autism with competitive wages. People with Autism are great with computers and software. It seems another one size fits all solution which does not work.

  3. Rose says:

    This is great! We need to think of more things like this to get them into the workplace.

  4. Kh Williams says:

    Love this plan…although it may not fit all, this is a step in the direction of introducing employers to an available employee base without stigmas. The process of customized employment can define and match appropriate skills to proper employment placement.

  5. Whitney says:

    It is great to have one business solely dedicated to Autism. I seen good a many business here dedicated to people with disabilities here in Texas. The problem like these businesses have are geared to mostly people on the lower end of the spectrum. Meaning here is a business wants people with disabilities to run a sewing machine for making soldier uniforms. If you are high functioning they look at you see as undesirable and the need someone who will not get bored with repetitive tasks. Also this company been re-branded as well due to an investigation by the FBI. It raises great deal of questions. 1. Is how much the employees who autism are getting paid? 2, What kind of Government kick back this company is getting for hiring people with Autism? 3. What kind of benefits people with autism are getting?

    It is find to have feel good story but give a complete story. I think having people with ASD treated as equals in employment is far more important than pat on back.

  6. Sara says:

    Yes, individuals with Autism are capable of much more just like anyone. However it is a challenge for some to get hired when social skills seem to be the barrier. Most employers don’t understand the uniqueness of Autism and will need to be trained.

  7. Lin N. says:

    My initial excitement about the headline dissipated when I read the statement “staffed almost entirely by people with autism”… Sounds good, but, aren’t we trying to get AWAY FROM segregating people with disabilities into places with only other people with disabilities? Others have made the point there is a huge range of capabilities and personalities within ASD, which is great, but still I would feel better about the story if they talked about a balance of people with and without disabilities.

  8. Tacitus says:

    “The Rising Tide Car Wash — which opened its doors in Parkland, Fla. this month — is built around the idea that people with autism excel at repetitive, structured tasks.”

    Oh, gee, thanks. I’m so glad to know that I wasn’t wasting my life and my intellect behind a cash register, but actually I was an excellent representative of the autistic skillset. I’ll be sure to drop out of college so people don’t get confused about my diagnosis. I wouldn’t want to hurt other autistics by failing to meet the stereotype.

  9. Janet says:

    While I appreciate the effort to get people working, my experience tells me that “group sites” only lead to disappointed workers and resources committed to making sure the business succeeds, vs. the individual(s) succeeding.

  10. Barbara says:

    I agree with some of the other comments that there are so many levels of autism that function on as many levels as anyone in the general population. But it is also encouraging to discover a company that values the abilities of a level that others dismiss as unemployable. All of us would like to be appreciated for our uniqueness, talents, and skills at all levels.

  11. Thomas D'Eri says:

    Hi All,

    Thank you for the great feedback! I’m the co-founder of Rising Tide Car Wash.

    First, I’d like to say that we completely agree that there is no one size fits all employment “silver bullet” for individuals with autism and that people with autism are certainly capable of much more than manual labor. Our goal is provide two opportunities for individuals on the spectrum:

    1. A first job opportunity where we can teach individuals with autism what it means to work (ie how to interact with co-workers, supervisors and customers), give them a job reference for future employment and help them achieve the self confidence they need to move forward with their career aspirations.

    2. For those who are interested, an opportunity to build a long term career with us – moving from entry level associate to detailer to supervisor, ect.

    Another point I’d like to raise, is that even though our ratio of individuals with autism to neurotypical employees is higher than traditional integrated employment, we make up for this by giving our employees the opportunity to interact with thousands of community members.

    Also to respond to Whitney, all of our entry level employees (regardless of disability) receive $8 per hour plus tips and we receive no government subsidy at this time and are fully funded by my family in an effort to provide a successful, scalable model for the employment of individuals with autism.

    If anyone would like to continue this conversation please feel free to email me at


  12. NICOLE LEBLANC says:

    We need to get people with disabilities REAL JOBS and fully fund supported employment! Sheltered Workshops need to be SHUT DOWN! Its time to help the dd community become self sufficient and live in the community!!!!

  13. Josie says:

    I think the key words in the article are structure, define the steps and repetition. I agree there should be a few individuals with disabilities at every job where one can structure and define steps. My son expressed an interest when he was very young in working at a car wash. As he got older he expressed an interest in being an air traffic controller. Most recently he’s expressed a desire to be a baggage handler at the airport. I applaud and respect any employer who is creating quality opportunities for adults with disabilities. Thank you.

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