Meet the Future Face of Technology - Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Technology FieldsMeet the Future Face of Technology - Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Technology Fields

Employment Success Stories

Exceptional Minds: Movie Magic

Exceptional Minds (EM) is a visual effects animation studio that trains and provides a new wave of digital effects artists to Hollywood, including Marvel Studios in Burbank, California. EM is also a nonprofit vocational training program that was formed by families of young adults with autism in 2009. The interpersonal skills that EM gives students are just as important as the technical expertise that they learn; however, bringing both to the attention of the entertainment industry top level executives has been difficult. But the success stories are beginning and the industry is recognizing the talents that these young adults are bringing to the entertainment world.

Read the complete story...

Exceptional Minds

Software Company Hires Autistic Adults for Specialized Skills

Patrick Viesti finally landed a job, with SAP, a company that does software testing, data analysis, and quality control in the tech world. SAP was founded by Thorkl Sonne who was inspired by his son who has autism, and saw the amazing skills sets that people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can bring to the IT marketplace if only businesses could look past the social skills that aren't part of the makeup of these individuals. Here's Patrick's story and background on SAP.

Read the complete story...

Disability Hasn't Stopped Tallahassee Man From Living a Dream
Thursday October 22, 2009 10:16 PM

Lane Henderson is Someone You Should Know

October is not only breast cancer awareness month, but it's also Disability Employment Awareness month.

Lane Henderson does a good job at a lot of things. The 27 year old has been working at FSU's mag lab for about a year, making 3-D models, optical equipment, and working on perfecting telescopes for different functions.

"When I first met Lane, he walked in a with a CD of his resume on it and told me about his art website," said speech coach Tim Wescoat.

But Lane isn't like every other kid. About three years ago, he went to see a counselor because something just didn't feel right.

Lane Henderson

"I was kind of surprised at first. It explained a lot of things about myself."

Lane was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, a type of autism. He's been aware of the condition for three years now. But it's never slowed him down, in fact, it's made him work even harder and strive for more.

"It does motivate me when I think about it."

"I'd like to have my own business."

The SAIL high school grad is making his way through Innovation Park, designing, modeling, and doing whatever his boss asks of him. And looking through his telescope, it appears the future looks bright for a young man who's just looking for a chance.

This "Success Story" Film Captures Best Buy Employee, Ryan Hemphill


(Music playing)

Ryan: One thing that I would like to do is try to teach the world to be more aware of Asperger's and what it really is.

(Talking in the background)

Ryan: Be yourself. I just feel for me that one of the most important things you can do in life is to be yourself.

Voiceover: Any person who has Asperger's syndrome you want to recognize that they have strengths and they have weaknesses. Focus on their strengths.

Chris: I met Ryan through an interview. The coolest part was everything he had to say was the right answer. You know he... I felt like after the interview he had a very solid grasp of what our customer experience should feel like.

Chris: So certifications... you said you were working on the media one. Have you had a chance to...

Ryan: The interview I had with Chris was kind of making sure that I was the right fit for the store.

Chris: As we sat down across the table, I saw a lot of passion, a lot of energy in him wanting to work at Best Buy. Heart is something that I can't coach.

Ryan: I got the job. 

Roberta: And he was absolutely thrilled. It was a dream job for him definitely. From the time he first started working there he was so excited every night when he came home from work.

Voiceover: Ryan works on the operations team. He is a customer specialist. He's excited, always has a smile on his face when he is here. When his shift is over, he will always walk up to the manager on duty or the sales leader and say "What else can I do".

John Pershing: I think someone with autism, or someone with Asperger's, needs an environment like that to continue to flourish themselves.

Jim: This opportunity just being able to work with Best Buy is such a blessing. For both him and for us as a family I think.

Dr, Barbara Luskin: Asperger's – there is a lot of debate about whether is it really different from autism, but it is a term used to describe people who have the characteristics of autism but are obviously very verbal, speak well, and are average or above intelligence. 

Ryan: People with autism may appear to be a little different, but they're people like everybody else.

(At dinner table) Dear Lord, thank you for this day, thank you for all our blessing. 

Dr, Barbara Luskin: What we know is that people with autism have much more difficulty interpreting social information. So that a lot of information that we convey socially we convey with facial expressions, body movements, that sort of information. And people with autism are missing much of that information.

Roberta: Working with the public has been really, really good for him. It's just made him much more socially aware.

John: For him to be able to get a job and be able to do the things he needs to be able to do... eventually be independent... a  lot of that was just his own perseverance.

Ryan: I can get you all right here.

Chris: He's always eager to help, so in terms of work ethic, phenomenal. If there is a customer he sees out on the floor that is going unserved, Ryan sprints to that customer to make sure that they're getting taken care of. If I had a hundred Ryans, it would be wonderful.

Dr. Barbara Luskin: Motivation is tremendously important, it's important for all of us, but one of the things I've learned about the people I know with autism is that they want something. They will move heaven and earth to make it happen.

Ryan: Originally my parents kept bugging me to get a car. They were getting tired of carting me around from point A to point B.

Chris: He was so excited about getting that new car. I think about Ryan and his family and the ability for him to have his own income, and for him to make payments on his own car, his ability to feel empowered. Ryan could have easily thought, oh, I'm going to be a cashier, that's not that big of a deal. He walked into this building thinking, I've got a job at Best Buy. I'm doing my dream job.

Roberta: Once Ryan makes up his mind to do something, there is not a lot you can do to hold him back. He really is very determined. I'd say that's the quality that most defines him.

John: What I'm really proud of working with an organization like Best Buy is that we strive everyday to realize the uniqueness in the individual and we have 150,000 individuals who bring life journeys, and life stories, and life experiences of who they are, to what we do every single day.

Roberta: I think for autism spectrum kids, Best Buy is a really great place, because they do tend to really love electronics. From the time he was really little he always loved going into Best Buy. I'm really impressed that the corporate philosophy is obviously focusing on abilities rather than disabilities. It's neat to see that lived out, and it certainly is in Ryan's case. Ryan is right at home.