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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Paddy’s PickUp provides purpose for teenager with autism

As a vibrant, 19-year-old Canberra man living with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Paddy has never lacked the skills to have a meaningful career, but he has lacked the opportunity.

That’s why, with the help of his parents Pete and Sarah, newly minted entrepreneur Paddy has started his very own laundry service – Paddy’s PickUp.

“Paddy’s PickUp was born of an idea to give our son a meaningful and inclusive work career following finishing school. With such profound special needs, it’s limited as to what he can participate in,” Sarah said.

“We have our own hair salon business, and we identified the structure and routine of keeping the laundry service going was something he would be able to do with the help of his support workers.”

Now, Paddy’s PickUp services a football team, a doctor’s surgery and a chiropractor, picking up gowns, towels and the like and is looking for more clients to add to the growing list.

In tow with his support worker, Paddy takes his laundry bag and an iPad to each job to communicate with his clients.

Autism specialist and founder of multi-disciplinary organisation Autism Swim, Erika Gleeson, has worked with Paddy for over eight years.

As a proud sponsor of the business, Erika said it directly addressed the lack of inclusive opportunity which faced Paddy when he finished his schooling. 

“There are a couple of jobs out there that are go-to’s for people with special needs, like a mail drop or pamphlets, but that is a very saturated market because people aren’t particularly creative in that space,” she said.

“Where this idea shines is it taps into his strengths, he likes repetitive things like folding towels and lining them up.

“He is also quite a social guy, full of life and this allows him to practise some of his social skills.”

In the long-term, Sarah hopes that Paddy’s PickUp will have enough clients to employ others with special needs, adding work experience and routine to their lives like it has to Paddy’s.  

She said she hopes the service promotes the realisation that Paddy and people like him have so much to give if they are presented with an opportunity to do so.

“Sometimes people might see him in the shopping centre and hear him making loud noises and give him funny looks but I want people to have an understanding that they are real people,” she said.

“Paddy is a big boy and he can be a bull in a china shop so I am a bit cautious and wary of him, but just the other day he came into the salon when I was working with an older client who waved at him.

“He went up to her and held his hand out to hold her hand in his and I just thought ‘how incredible’, that’s his own way of showing her he appreciates her acknowledging him.”

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