Toronto Teen With Autism Dances His Way To Ellen

This story had me crying with joy. It is so rare to turn on the news and hear anything that makes you smile, so when I saw this it moved me to write about it.

Sam is a 17-year-old barista at Starbucks who likes to dance as he serves up drinks. A viral video of him busting some moves while making a drink went viral on YouTube. Doesn’t sound like a big deal, right? But what makes Sam’s story unique is that he has autism and despite this perceived deficiency, he is able to do his job and do it with joy. That, to me, is a gift. Not a setback, challenge or obstacle. None of the terms used to describe someone with autism who was told that he would never be employed.

Thankfully that narrow thinking doesn’t exist in everyone and one day Sam met Chris at Camp Thrive, affiliated with Integrated Services for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders (ISAND).  Chris is also a manager at a local Starbucks in Toronto and when Sam told him that his dream was to be a barista, he gave Sam a job. Chris looked past the autism and saw Sam, a young capable man with an aspiration. Not a disorder.

The viral video caught the attention of Ellen DeGeneres and she invited Sam along with Chris to her daytime talk show.  Sam spoke about how dancing at work helps him concentrate and how appreciative he is to Chris. That’s when my eyes got misty. Where so many may have seen a hindrance, Sam found a fun way to help him work. And his boss Chris empowers him by letting him dance away. I applaud Ellen for using her show as a platform to draw attention to the discrimination towards people with disabilities and celebrating Chris and Sam. Seeing how happy he was to be on her show and how moved he was by her gift pushed me over the edge. I couldn’t stop crying as I watched this.

This story really hits home for me. Someone very close to me is autistic and my whole life I’ve seen how small minded people have treated him cruelly and told him he was different. It has impacted his confidence and social skills. It’s a daily struggle to encourage him to try new things, to reassure him that if he can’t succeed today there’s always tomorrow.

I wish there were more people like Chris who look past the disability and reach out a hand to a fellow human. If we all expanded our minds, practiced humility and offered empathy to one another, could you imagine how enriched our lives would be? I hope this story teaches those that are quick to prejudge someone because they may appear or act different, to think twice and open their hearts.

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