Embracing life on the spectrum: Jonathon’s story
Jonathon Tan is reveling in his role at the bustling Becca Foodstore.
A focused Jonathon moves quickly, playing his part in ensuring the kitchen runs smoothly.
Watching him work, it’s not just apparent that the 24-year-old loves his job, but also that he brings a humor to Becca that’s helped him establish a great rapport with his workmates and customers.
It’s an example of a workplace understanding, valuing and integrating the unique perspective and capabilities of people on the autism spectrum.
‘I love working here, being in the kitchen’
“The customers are great, I’ve gotten to know them when they come in and they’re really friendly,” Jonathon says.
“I love working here, being in the kitchen for breakfast, morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea. It’s great fun.”
This is not the first time Jonathon has aroused the attention of Amaze.
He and his family have participated in a number of fun runs to raise money for Amaze and are taking up the challenge again in 2017.
Jonathon is working with a personal trainer to prepare for the Run For The Kids and city2sea events.
His father, Check, says raising money is important, but their key objective in participating in runs is to create awareness and understanding about autism.
“We reached a point where I realised that people close to us know what autism is, but so many people don’t and I want people to see that Jonathon has not been limited by autism,” Check explains.
Jonathon’s motto is ‘no fear’
“The change I really want to see in the world is acceptance.”
Jonathon was diagnosed at two-and-a-half and was non-verbal until he was three-and-a-half.
He’d been missing milestones, not turning his head or responding when people spoke to him.
“At that point there was not a lot of therapy associated with the autism spectrum,” Check says.
Jonathon attended Irabina EIP, Wantirna Heights SDS (primary), Heatherwood Special School, Bulleen Heights Special School and NMIT (Melbourne Polytechnic).
He completed a Cert I in Work Education and Cert II in retail baking before starting work at Becca.
Away from work, Jonathon plays for Blitz in the All Abilities basketball competition and is a regular squash player.
“What I love most about Jonathon is his willingness to take on life,” Check adds.
High need for social interaction
“His motto is ‘no fear’ and he’s shown that with the way he approaches things.
“Jonathon’s desire to interact socially with people is just another example of breaking the myth of autistic people not being sociable.
“They are all individuals with their own personalities tempered/conditioned by their autistic brain in how they perceive and respond to the world around them.
“Jonathon loves cars, geography, sports, travel and food and really gets along with people.
“During his study he needed to do work experience and that’s how he came into contact with Becca.
“That was four years ago and now he works here five days a week.”