A school-to-work transition success story in the making

Until they met Duncan Farschman, small business partners Pam and Nazih had never really considered hiring someone with autism. Nor, for that matter, had either imagined how they could impact a young person’s career hopes.

“A regular customer approached us about a teenaged friend with autism who wanted to work in a restaurant,” recalls Nazih. As it turned out, Duncan was that friend.

The timing was good. Duncan, who loves working in the kitchen at home, was anxious to get some on-the-job restaurant experience. Pam and Nazih, who manage Organic Bliss Gluten Free Bakery and Deli, were looking to fill an open part-time position.

“Duncan was so excited about the possibility of getting his first job,” remembers his mother, Jodi. “He filled out the employment application and went for an interview all on his own.”

Pam and Nazih hired Duncan to work at Organic Bliss, helping out with kitchen prep work and cleanup. Impressed with the young man’s work ethic, the partners have been training Duncan to wait on customers.

“Duncan displays a positive attitude at work,” says Pam. “He is always willing to help, and he has a joyfulness toward his job that we find unique.”

Pam finds that Duncan’s autism requires a bit more job shadowing and flexibility, but says his overall work quality is very good. What’s more, customers and coworkers all enjoy interacting with Duncan.

“They love him,” Nazih explains. “Especially his playfulness and joy.”

Duncan is blessed to be getting the training and experience he needs as he enters the workforce, says Jodi.

“I’ve watched Duncan’s confidence grow since he started his job at Organic Bliss,” she says. “He walks into work with such pride at the start of every shift.”

And there have been changes outside of work, as well. “He’s more willing to try new things since starting his job,” says Jodi, adding that Duncan has learned to take public transportation and recently enrolled in culinary school. “His dream is to own a pizza shop that has ice cream and video games.”

For their part, Nazih and Pam have advice for employers considering hiring someone with cognitive challenges.

“Working with Duncan has made us mindful that some employees need extra flexibility,” says Pam. “Just be patient and follow their lead, and they will show you any accommodations they need in order to succeed.”

That’s another thing Pam and Nazih had never thought about until they met Duncan Farschman.