First-Grader with Autism Gets to Be Manager at Wendy’s
A seven-year-old Springfield, Missouri resident with autism had a personal dream fulfilled this week, when he was given the opportunity to serve a one-hour shift as manager of a local Wendy’s restaurant as part of his school’s career day.
The boy, Eric Johnson, is a student at Springfield’s Cowden Elementary School, and was diagnosed with autism at age 3. Eric’s mother, Denise Berg-Johnson, discovered her son’s choice of career path after asking him what he would like to be when he grew up. Unexpectedly, the boy responded that he wanted to be a manager at Wendy’s, mainly due to his love for their hand-cut fries.
Because the Johnson’s eat at Wendy’s several times a week, Berg-Johnson asked Glenn Schonder, the restaurant’s manager, if he had any items Eric could use for his costume. Going a step further, she reached out to Hamra Enterprises in Chicago, to find out whether Eric could try out the role of manager for himself.
On Monday, November 11, Eric’s wish was granted, as the seven-year-old (in full Manager’s uniform) was given the opportunity to clean tables and chairs, greet customers, remove trays, and even hand customers their orders at the drive-thru and counter.
Berg-Johnson believes the role-playing will open the door for discussions about inclusion in the workforce.
“I figure if I can be an advocate for Eric and folks like Eric, then that’s what we’re here to do," Berg-Johnson said. "I know Eric’s 7, and he may or may not become a manager at Wendy’s. This just opens the door for us to start talking about inclusion in the workforce. When we talk about inclusion in the workforce, we often talk about race. We talk about sexual identity or gender identity, but we don’t always make inclusion efforts for people with special abilities."