VIDOR, Texas — 23-year-old Braden Chilton started working at Mutt and Jeff's in Vidor May third of 2018.
"I've been doing great at it, just keeping at it and everybody has been a huge fan of having me here," Chilton said.
It's his first job since graduating from Vidor High School, and he plans to keep it. His main jobs are to wash dishes and bus tables, but his favorite part is serving. He serves his fellow employees by lending a hand, and customers coming in for a meal.
Chilton has autism, but he doesn't let that slow him down. In fact, he sees it as a strength.
"I memorize a lot of things...I'm one of the smartest people around," Chilton said.
Owner of Mutt and Jeff's John Houseman offered Chilton the job last year shortly after his dad passed away. He said he thought it'd be a great opportunity for Chilton, and knew he could handle the tasks involved.
"I approached his mom about bringing him on, she had some reservations and I made sure that she was aware that we would have an open line of communication and I would be honest with her and open with her about any challenges we were facing," Houseman said.
Houseman said Chilton's mom was worried at first, but he quickly proved he was up to the task.
"Braden never missed a beat, whenever he started I knew from day one it was a perfect job for him," Houseman said.
Houseman said a few days into the job Chilton told his mom how fulfilled he was working there. He said he loves to see the glow in Chilton's eyes when he's interacting with customers and doing his job.
Chilton and Houseman hope others will hear their story and give individuals with autism the chance when looking to fill a job. Houseman said it's important to communicate with their caregivers or parents and find out what communication methods work for them. He said to be specific and always be there as a support mechanism.
While Houseman recognizes Chilton has autism, he realizes Chilton is just like everyone else.
"People who are exceptional, that's the way I prefer to list Braden is he, yes, he may have autism, that may be the tag or title that's been placed on him but he's an exceptional individual, so why not have him interact with other people and let them experience his exceptionalism," Houseman said.
Chilton is grateful Houseman gave him the opportunity to work. He hopes others with autism will try working.
"They really should, it doesn't really matter whether it's wild or mild, they deserve it and I believe in them," said Chilton.
Chilton said people with autism often face a feeling of being overwhelmed, but the best way to beat it is to face it. His coworkers are quick to step in when he needs a hand.
"If you take an autistic person and have them conquer their fears, or anything they do, especially getting a job, I think this will help them fulfill their destiny in a huge way," said Chilton.
He said the city of Vidor has shown him a great deal of support. However, if that were to ever change Houseman said his loyalty is with Chilton and his other employees.
"If someone is doing something that is inappropriate they're going to be asked not to come back, plain and simple," said Houseman.