Lee’s Summit autistic man finds purpose in managing vending machine businesses

Lee's Summit autistic man finds purpose in managing vending machine businesses

“It’s really fulfilling because it gives him a purpose, he gets out in the community,” Tony Taylor said. “I really think it benefits everyone to see him participate in the community the way he does.” On Tony Taylor’s day off, Jonah and he drive to each location that has a vending machine. Jonah stocks the machines and takes out the money. Those who ask Jonah if he’s happy, will get “Bah,” as a response, which means “yes.” His parents said he enjoys what he does.

Jonah’s parents, Tony and Kim, pondered ways to support him in adulthood, and they thought filling and servicing vending machines would be a great fit. Jonah Taylor has autism and is nonverbal, so he uses his tablet to communicate. He’s a man of few words but also an entrepreneur.

“If there’s a definitive purpose and a start and ending, he can usually fill in the middle,” Dr. Tony Taylor said, “and we thought that this process was something he could complete from end to end.” Jonah Taylor pushes a button on his tablet. A computerized voice says, “I am 20 years old.”

Lori Oxborough, program director for DPI Employment Connections, said this kind of community support is essential for young adults like Jonah Taylor. “Many of our jobs are all customized to the individual, so it’s not just a job we place them in,” Oxborough said. “They actually go through the process and we really figure out what their themes are, then we talk with the employers and they customize the job for them, so it’s an awesome partnership with so many businesses we have.” Jonah Taylor’s family works with Developing Potential Inc., which provided him with a job coach.

“I don’t think there’s any limitations to entrepreneurship,” Ben Rao said, president of Bridge Space, said. “Our mission at Bridge Space is to help small businesses and entrepreneurs get them the resources to build bigger and try to create jobs in Lee’s Summit.” Jonah’s Vending now has five vending machines at businesses around Lee’s Summit, including Bridge Space, a business incubator.

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