Starbucks barista with autism uses fame to raise awareness
Dario Balca, CTV Toronto
Published Wednesday, January 27, 2016 9:46PM EST
A 17-year-old boy with autism who made headlines after a video of him working at a North York Starbucks went viral this week says he wants to raise awareness for people with special needs.
Last summer, Sam met the coffee shop’s manager, Chris Ali, at Camp Thrive, a summer camp that helps young adults with autism develop skills they can use in the working world.
“I asked Sam what he wanted to be when he grew up,” Ali said. “Ironically he said he wanted to be a barista.”
Ali brought Sam on board at the Starbucks he manages. And Sam says he is more than thankful for the opportunity.
“I never thought that I would ever be able to work behind the bar because of … me having autism,” he said. “I'm not that great with social cues sometimes and I'm not good with loud noises.”
Sam also experiences sudden physical movements. But Ali saw an opportunity to combine two of the teen’s favourite things -- work and dance.
“Starbucks has a routine called repeatable routines and they're specific steps that you need to do to make beverages,” Ali said. “If you saw in the YouTube video, Sam is using those routines but using dance to balance, to focus, to make sure that he's making the drinks correctly.”
The video of Sam was posted online last week and has since gone viral with more than 50 million hits.
But the fame hasn’t gone to Sam’s head. He says he wants to use the attention to help others.
“The real star of this video is my story because my story is inspiring so many parents of children who have autism,” he said. “It's inspiring them so much and it's telling them their son or daughter with autism can thrive and succeed in society even though society can be jerks to us special needs people.”
With a report from CTV Toronto’s Scott Lightfoot