Business provides employment and independence for adults with autism
Seventeen-year-old Matt Leonard may be younger than his brother Mikey, but he’s always felt a sense of responsibility toward him.
Mikey, who has autism, completed school in Alamo Heights ISD in 2013 and moved into a home with a caretaker, gaining some independence from his family, but he had trouble finding employment that worked out long term. He’d held down a few jobs, including cleaning church pews and organizing clothes at a department store, but he struggled when unexpected situations would pop up, such as a medium shirt being in a bin of small clothes he was tasked with placing on hangers.
Last year, Matt came up with an idea to help. With guidance from their parents, Matt founded Independence Shredding, a document shredding company that caters to businesses and individuals. He worked with Mikey to learn the ins and outs of shredding documents (including complying with privacy laws when destroying medical documents), and Mikey now operates the business from his home along with his friend Joey Songco, who also has autism.
Matt says his brother thrives on repetition so while the career might not seem like an exciting one to some, it’s been the perfect fit for Mikey and Joey, who like to listen to music while they shred. Shredding leaves fewer opportunities for the unexpected and allows the two to provide a needed service to the community.
Matt, who will be a senior at Saint Mary’s Hall, says he’s hopeful that as the company grows they can employ more adults with special needs. Only around 19 percent of adults with disabilities are employed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and Matt says having a job has provided his brother with a new sense of pride and some financial independence. “Growing up with Mikey was incredible,” he says. “I knew from the get-go that people are all different and that’s OK. It gave me the perspective that everyone should have opportunities.” facebook.com/independenceshredding