West Palm Beach students with autism working with local restaurant in hopes of obtaining jobs

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Twice a week 20-year-old Anthony Ewen and 18-year-old Amanda Tourino leave the Renaissance Learning Academy for a combination work-and-lesson session at a Chick-fil-A restaurant.

"I like it," said the soft-spoken Tourino.

An assembly line process has been set up for the students, as they fill bags and do other small tasks that may help them once they finish school.

"They'll have that experience of being around more people and having the skills to hold a job," said  Candace Tedesco, a job coach who's been working with the two students since September.

"Before I used to have to give them prompts," she said about having the students complete each step. "Now they're getting their own materials out of the boxes, getting their stations set up."

While students in these types of programs are showing improvement in their vocational and social skills, there's a question of whether they'll be able to do enough to convince companies to take them on.

"Right now they're completing two-step tasks, some of them three to four-step tasks. But giving them a whole big list of things to do at one time, they might not be able to complete it to... (the company's satisfaction)," said Tedesco.

Rob Morris, the owner and operator of two Chick-fil-A restaurants in West Palm Beach, said they haven't had a student on the autism spectrum apply for a job. But he said  Anthony and Amanda could end up working there.

"I think it's probably a logical conclusion to draw that down the road it will work out once the school year's out or maybe over the summer," he said.

If it works out,  these lessons will have paid off in hard cash.

"Our goal is by the end of the school year for them to hopefully get a job at Chick-fil-A, or somewhere like that, where they can be doing work like this," said Tedesco.


 

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