I came across this story about Matthew Morreale in Sunday’s Orange County Register. Matthew, who is 21 years old, runs a small business shredding documents for a variety of companies in the Orange County area. His goal? To visit Disney theme parks located around the world.
Matthew’s mom’s goal is a bit different from his: She wants Matthew to earn enough money and to learn the skills needed to become as independent as possible.
What sets Matthew apart from other business owners? He’s autistic.
With the number of autistic children rising in California and in the country, it is understandable that parents are beginning to consider what will happen when these children exit the school system. According to this article, in Orange County alone there are 156 seventeen year olds with autism, and over 500 five year olds have been diagnosed as falling along the autistic spectrum.
Having taught special education for ten years before starting my own company, I know the strain that a diagnosis such as autism can have on a parent. We all want our children to be as independent as possible; unfortunately, not all children have the same opportunities as others. Employers are sometimes hesitant to hire someone with a disability because they are afraid that the work the person can do will be comprimised by the disability.
When I taught, I worked in the community running a Community Based Instruction program, which was created to teach students with disabilities to be as independent as possible. To see that Matthew has taken his small company and expanded it is so inspiring! It shows that entrepreneurship can be available to many people, and that if we use our business skills to help others learn about business, we can really open some doors.
The Matthew James Co. began with just one employee but is now ready for some expansion.
Way to go Matthew! You are the perfect role model for many, many people who have the same dream.