Dancing Starbucks Barista With Autism Raises Awareness About Disability Employment

"Please, please, please keep an open mind about what people with special needs can do."

"When he was offered a position to work at Starbucks, Sam told his parents that for the first time, his life had real meaning."

This gut-wrenching line comes from a video description posted on YouTube by Carly Fleischmann, a blogger and published author who writes stories about her life with autism.

Four days before her birthday, Fleischmann shared an uplifting video of Sam, a 17-year-old barista with autism who works at a Starbucks joint in Toronto and obviously has a blast with his job, judging from his suave dance moves behind the counter.

Her goal, however, wasn't to emphasize Sam's choreographic abilities, but to raise awareness about disability employment.


"Like some people with autism, Sam has a movement disorder. [He] has a hard time keeping his body still," Carly writes.

This movement disorder had a big toll on Sam's self-confidence and made him think he would never get a job. 

However, after partaking in a summer camp organized by Toronto's Integrated Services for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders (ISAND) and Starbucks, Sam got the opportunity of a lifetime to turn his timid dreams into full-fledged reality.

Sam was initially hired as the store's café attendant, but has been promoted after delivering an empowering speech in front of a Starbucks executive. Now, he's known as the "dancing barista."

"Dancing provides him with more control. He is doing great and learning new skills. His happiness has rubbed off on partners and customers," says store manager Chris Ali.

Check out this video that captures Sam in the middle of his usual coffee-making groove:

The video has already garnered more than 50 million views on Facebook and continues to spread across the Internet. It really is a wonderful example of what diversity and inclusion in a workplace can achieve.

According to 2014 Disability Equality Index, only 19 out of 80 Fortune 1000-size companies received a 100 out of 100 for implementing disability inclusion policies and practices, Starbucks being one of them.

"People with autism do not want to be looked at with sympathy, so I would say to anyone: please, please, please keep an open mind about what people with special needs can do," Sam says.


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