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Heroes You Should Know: John D’Eri

   Inspiration can occur at any time, in any place…even a car wash.  That’s where John D’Eri got the idea of a business that could employee his son Andrew, who is autistic, and other young adults on the autism spectrum. John formed CanDo Business Ventures in 2011, a non-profit focused on developing scalable businesses for people with autism.  As an entrepreneur himself, he understood how valuable work was to a healthy self-identity, but he also knew how difficult it was for his son, then approaching 22 years-old, to get a job.  According to the government, about 1 in 68 people has autism spectrum disorder.  And unemployment rates for these adults range from 65-90%.  D’Eri believes this is largely due to negative stereotypes---stereotypes that will persist as long as more opportunities for success are not provided.  The truth, of course, is that people on the autism spectrum can excel at work, especially where repetition and laser-focus is needed.  And with an estimated 500,000 more people with autism spectrum disorder joining the workforce in the next decade, this business plan comes at a most opportune time. To insure success, D’Eri and his other son, who had just finished business school, did two years of research, and developed a training protocol in the process. With the mission of making money by employing men and women on the autism spectrum, the D’Eri family opened the first Rising Tide car wash in 2013 in Parkland, Florida and employed 35 autistic men and women.  John has insisted the car wash be self-sustaining, to show that the model can be done without the assistance of foundations or the government.  People on the spectrum don’t need charity, they just need a chance. The D’Eri family has the goal of three more for-profit Rising Tide car washes in the next year. John D’Eri understands that dignity always trumps diagnosis, and ability comes in many different forms.  In a world that still struggles to understand that we are ALL special needs people, this is exceptional. John D’Eri is a hero you should know.  And I’m Dr. Ross Porter.

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