Over the month of April you’ve most likely seen the color blue sneaking into your view. April is Autism Awareness Month in the US – that may be why your Facebook feed has been buzzing blue or why you’ve seen iconic landmarks around the globe (including the Empire State Building in New York City) lit blue. To celebrate, I’m taking a look at Rising Tide Car Wash, a Parkland-based pioneering social enterprise that helps young people with autism build a career and achieve an independent lifestyle.
Rising Tide was founded on April 6, 2013 and is one of the largest employers of people with autism in the U.S. with 30+ employees. Their goal: to be the premier car wash experience in the market. Reflecting the proven fact that people with autism, when instructed correctly, are exceptional at maintaining consistency with tasks requiring repetition and structure, Rising Tide and its consultants created an innovative model that breaks the car washing process into 46 distinct steps.
“Typically people with autism are really good at structured tasks, following processes and attention to detail,” says Thomas D’Eri, COO of Rising Tide Car Wash. “We saw that they were really important skills that people with autism have that make them in some case the best employees you can have. Our employees follow processes, are really excited to be here and have a great eye for detail. Autism is a key competitive advantage.”
Rising Tide helps its associates with autism realize their incredible capabilities, gain confidence that they never had before, make friends, gain financial independence, and have a place to call their own. “They come to us with very little purpose and very little hope for their future. But once they start working with us and they start to get positive reinforcement of doing a good job, [the] customer being happy and getting a tip – that really starts to open them up and they start to be able to think about what they might be able to do with their life – whether that’d be to stick with us or go do something that is more closely aligned with whatever their aspirations are.”
Disability Solutions’ own Chris Simler worked on the project as a consultant. He adds: “The Rising Tide project is an excellent example of the skills and strengths of individuals with autism. Our consulting team utilized strategies and visual processes to train and instruct individuals with autism. Once the strategies and systems were utilized we found the production rate not only increased but set new standards. There were so many great learnings from this project. Disability Solutions leverages many of the same systems and strategies to work with corporate diversity and inclusion programs nationally.”
D’Eri and his father John D’Eri co-founded Rising Tide Car Wash to develop a scalable solution to the employment challenges faced by individuals with autism. They were inspired to do this by watching Tom’s brother, 22-year-old Andrew. A vibrant young man with autism, Andrew was struggling to find his place in the world, a common problem faced by people on the autism spectrum. Startlingly, it is estimated that more than 80 percent of adults with autism are unemployed, and at least 500,000 more will enter the workforce in the next decade.
Since its founding, Rising Tide has almost tripled its customer base, and built an “Unlimited Wash Club” membership of approximately 1,000 people. During the past two years, Rising Tide has made significant strides in creating awareness of the capabilities that people with autism have. These include being featured on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams and other national news programs and publications, being selected to attend Unreasonable Institute Global (one of the most prestigious social impact accelerator programs in the world), and much more.
D’Eri was invited to speak at the United Nations’ World Autism Awareness Day event, “Employment: The Autism Advantage” on April 2nd at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, N.Y. “I am extremely honored to have been selected to speak on World Autism Awareness Day,” said D’Eri. “As we at Rising Tide celebrate our second anniversary, we are very happy to be a part of the efforts in the U.S. and around the world to make communities understand the incredible capabilities that people with autism have, and how they can be exceptional employees.”
Click here to watch Rising Tide’s recent NationSwell documentary, which now has over 3 million combined views on Facebook and YouTube.
About Rising Tide Car Wash
Rising Tide Car Wash is a scalable social enterprise with the primary mission of employing adults with autism. Striving to inspire communities to change their perception of the capabilities of people with autism by delivering a first-rate car wash experience to consumers, Rising Tide uses intensive training, team building and caring for the community to set its employees up for success. With this model, Rising Tide has a goal to provide people with autism with an opportunity to build stable, rewarding careers and achieve an independent lifestyle. Rising Tide aims to be Broward County’s first B Corporation (the gold standard in verifying that a company is truly a social enterprise) and the fourth in the state of Florida. Rising Tide Car Wash is located at 7201 N. State Rd 7, Parkland, FL 33067. It is open seven days a week from 8 a.m.–6 p.m. For more information, visit www.risingtidecarwash.com, call (954) 344-1855 or email email@example.com.