Autism and Automation: How Technology is Transforming Lives

Hi, I’m Steve Bigari, and today I wanted to make this session just a little more personal. I want to tell you about my amazing, 19-year-old daughter named Anna. Anna’s special in so many ways. She’s overcome more than most will ever have to deal with. You see, Anna is on the autism spectrum.

And, for those of you who don’t know, more than three and a half million Americans are on the spectrum. If you know someone with autism, you know that autism looks different on everyone.

In general, some of the common challenges among people on the spectrum is that they experience problems with school and employment. Eighty-eight percent of people with autism are under- or unemployed.

They often face challenges with social communication, which can lead to isolation and stress-filled relationships. Those communication challenges may explain why most of these folks will never marry and why they will struggle to live independently. In fact, approximately 80 percent of people on the spectrum will have to be supported by family members for the rest of their lives.

For these folks, work is an incredible challenge. Most jobs just don’t match their unique gifts. What is common between people on the spectrum and typical people is the desire for relationship and the need to be treated with dignity and respect.

You know, at SYNQ3, we’re about transforming restaurants, and now, inspired by Anna, we’re also about transforming the lives of people on the spectrum as well. You see what happened is in our automation work where we have five national brands that are at some stage of deploying full automation, and a dozen brands that employ our Rapid Reorder automation product, we’ve learned a lot.

And we’ve found that effective automation requires people and technology to interact. This is where something amazing happens. Because of my daughter Anna, I’ve learned that some neuro-diverse people are uniquely qualified to interpret the intent of word utterances from automation. This makes them highly skilled and adept at transforming the restaurant ecosystem.

And, you see, this is important because Technomic tells us that our industry is short-staffed by 912,000 people. So, rather than taking away jobs through automation, we’re creating new and better jobs for an incredibly gifted population of people. At SYNQ3, we’re proud to be transforming the restaurant industry, but now, even more proud, to be transforming the lives of all of our employees, including those who are living on the spectrum.

On October 15, 2019, SYNQ3 was recognized by the state of Colorado with a “Shining Star of Vocational Rehabilitation” award for their work with the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation.