Boy with autism fulfills dream of being Wendy’s manager

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SPRINGFIELD, MO (CNN) – Every year, thousands of people on the autism spectrum graduate high school and many of them will be looking for jobs.

But will they get hired? Are companies ready to employ them?

One mom got a win-win this week in her push for workplace equality, a chance for her son with autism to live out his dream job.

“I said to him, what do you want to be when you grow up? I thought he was going to say like a professional gamer or anything like that. He’s all like, I want to be a Wendy’s manager,” Denise Johnson said.

Denise Johnson is Eric’s mom.

“I believe we’re going to have a crisis in the workforce if we, as leaders and managers, don’t learn how to manage these folks,” Johnson said.

She says she’s an advocate for workplace equality.

“And when we talk about that, we often talk about race, and gender identity, we don’t always talk about people with special abilities, and I think it’s time that we start talking about that,” Johnson said. “It’s not Eric’s job to change who he is so that he fits in completely in the workplace, it’s our job as neurotypical individuals to learn how to include them in our workplace.”

“And our hope is that he and other kids like him are going to have far better job opportunities and educational opportunities as they get older,” Dedee Culley, a customer, said. 

Customer Dedee Culley also has a son with special abilities.

“I have to be able to know that my son’s going to be able to get a job. Eric’s going to be able to get a job. I need them to be able to be educated and be able to be active, and kids that can give back to our community,” Culley said. 

“Pixar has an entire division of adults on the spectrum who work on their animation department. Google. If they can do it, anyone can do it,” Johnson said. 

“We have people that we hire that we work with as much as possible, that we can accommodate,” Glenn Schomder said. 

Wendy’s general manager Glenn Schomder says the budget is something that can prevent a business from hiring people with special abilities.

“We’re limited by how much we’re allowed to spend for our labor based on how much money the store makes, so a store that’s much more busy has more hours that you could work with and stuff like that,” Schomder said. 

Eric even got to serve customers at the drive-thru window.

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