Given a chance, employees at Long Island’s Spectrum Designs are changing perceptions about autism

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PORT WASHINGTON, N.Y. — April 1 marks the beginning of Autism Acceptance and Awareness Month.

On Monday, CBS New York met a remarkable group of young people who are thriving because they were given a chance to succeed in the Long Island workplace.

It’s an environment where inclusivity and neurodiversity, the belief that our brains work differently but equally, drive success.

Spectrum Designs is a Port Washington custom apparel and products business with 75 employees — more than half of which are on the spectrum.

“To me, spectrum means acceptance. It’s incredible. There are miracles going on here every day,” said Dylan Valic, the company’s marketing manager.

“If you never give up there is always a probably for success. Once you give up, then that chance goes to zero,” Joshua Mirsky said.

Mirsky was just honored in Albany for creating the first neurodiversity flag for New York state. It was proudly raised outside Spectrum’s offices.

“I’m extremely proud. What I want this to be is what the Pride flag is for the Pride community,” Mirsky said.

READ MOREInside the Marvels of Media Festival, first and only film festival for media-makers on autism spectrum

Nearly 85% of adults on the autism spectrum are unemployed in the U.S.

“One time I had a job interview, and within five minutes the manager said he couldn’t hire me because I didn’t make eye contact,” said Kelli Fisher, Spectrum Designs’ social media manager.

But those who run Spectrum saw Fisher as someone steeped in talent. She created an ad for Autism Acceptance Month, “based on an idea I had that autistic people are seen in a box,” she said, adding, “We are trying to get rid of the stigma of autism.”

“We gave Kelli the opportunity and she came up with this new campaign, and the idea around a box, and talking about what it feels like to be marginalized and disenfranchised, I never could have come up with that,” Spectrum Designs CEO Patrick Bardsley said.

Fisher’s mom, Ann Marie Kelly, says treating her daughter with dignity and respect has been life changing for the family.

“I feel like I’m going to cry now. It has just been amazing, an amazing journey,” Kelly said.

It’s a journey of joy, sang employee Jason Chen.

“Navigate community and get things done because we’re the navigators,” Chen said.

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