I was in line at Market Basket and I noticed that the bagger was very friendly and talkative to the woman cashing out in front of me. Isn’t that nice, I thought to myself, I’ll have to be sure to have a conversation with him when it’s my turn, he seems to enjoy talking to his customers.
He continued to talk to the woman in front of me: “People at school can be like, ‘Oh he’s so weird, that kid is so weird’, but I don’t listen to them, you know? Autism gives me the strength to not care what people think of me.”
I stopped loading my groceries on the belt for a second, a bit shocked, and let that comment sink in. Autism gives me the strength. I had never heard anyone describe autism quite like that before, and I was both inspired and proud to hear a young man with autism say that to a complete stranger while having a full conversation with her.
As someone who has both educational and professional experience in the behavioral and human services field for over 10 years, I have learned a lot about, and worked with a lot of individuals with autism. One of the biggest challenges for them is social interaction. And here I was listening to this young man with autism chat away with his customers! What a wonderful opportunity for a good life Market Basket has created for him and so many others with disabilities!
I continued to wait as my items moved up the belt, and it was finally my turn to cash out and enjoy my own conversation with this young man. We chatted about my groceries and he continued his conversation about school. He was telling me a story about a teacher he really admired and how she liked to joke around with him and his classmates. His teacher also liked the fact that he was very good at remembering certain things she would say. “That’s just one of the many strengths autism gives me,” he continued.
I honestly can’t remember what I said to that. Probably something as mediocre as, “That’s awesome!” because I was again taken aback by his choice of words even though I’d just heard him say something very similar a few minutes before. Here’s what I should have said: “You’re awesome. I envy your strengths. Way to advocate for yourself and educate others on what autism really is all about; so many people are so ill-informed. Keep spreading the word, keep that strength, and, thank you.” And a special thanks to Market Basket too for giving those with intellectual disabilities opportunities!
-Jillian Laham, Quality Assurance & Autism Coordinator at The Moore Center
Market Basket has a long history of hiring people with intellectual disabilities and this is a great example of the good it does. We hope this story encourages other businesses to adopt a similar policy and to better understand the value people with intellectual disabilities bring to an organization. Please share this story to help us encourage more opportunities for those we serve!
The Moore Center helps place people with intellectual disabilities in jobs. If you’re a parent or business interested in getting someone employed, please contact us!