Teen with autism is focused on success, will join workforce full time in June


INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - As many people are finishing up work for the day, businesses like restaurants are just getting going. One worker at TGI Friday’s in downtown Indianapolis is about to hit a big milestone.

Armando Rodriguez started working there a couple years ago as part of a program in his high school. He has autism but that hasn't stopped him from doing what he loves and making a lot of people proud along the way.

It's a pretty quick walk to work from Armando's bus stop but he's come a long way in the last few years. The George Washington High senior splits time between his classroom there and the restaurant, where he's learning a new set of skills. Armando keeps track of time, money and the food he preps.

“Once you show him what you want him to do, he got it done,” said Patricia Gray, one of Armando’s coworkers. “And he's really precise at what he does.”

Not only is he a hard worker, he's also one of the friendliest guys you'll ever meet. Armando is the only one in his Life Skills class at this level.

“Our goal, point blank from day one, is to get these kids ready for the world that really doesn't care what their disability is,” said Chris Boylan, Armando’s teacher. “To make them as independent as possible within that world.”

April is Autism Awareness Month and as the month ends, Armando is looking ahead to bumping up his hours.

“Started off two days a week, built it up to three or four and when he graduates here in June, we'll be looking at Monday through Friday,” said general manager Peter Duckworth. “He'll be working five days a week for us.”

Armando says he likes to make people proud and that’s what he hopes to keep doing.

“We've got to stop being afraid that they might get hurt or they might fail,” said Boylan. “You're right, they might. But that's how we grow. That's how we learn things. If we never take those chances, what kind of life are we really wanting for these kids.”

Armando graduates on June 7 and says he's "really excited" about the next chapter at work and in his life.

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