When Matt Cottle asked his boss to let him work in the supermarket's bakery, she told him he'd never do anything more than collect grocery carts.
After six years of bagging groceries and pushing carts, Cottle wanted more. He had already learned how to do some baking.
Cottle is autistic. And today he's an entrepreneur, the owner of Stuttering King Bakery, turning out batches of cookies, brownies and scones for cafes and businesses and groups that need catering.
"I was like, OK, I am destined to do something greater than that," Cottle says in the kitchen of his family's Scottsdale, Arizona, home, where he spends hours each day filling orders. He generates $1,200 monthly. He named the business for Britain's King George VI, whose struggles to speak were the subject of the film "The King's Speech."
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Cottle is one of a few known small business owners with autism, a brain disorder that affects a person's ability to comprehend, communicate and interact socially. There are varying degrees of autism, but even autistic people with the greatest capabilities can find it impossible to get a job because they take longer to read or process information, or because they struggle to hold conversations. One in 68 people have some form of autism, according to government figures.
There is a growing movement to help autistic adults find jobs, but for Cottle and his family, the answer was a business of his own.
Cottle had taken training to do search and rescue operations. And he tried working in a bakery. Both times, he encountered people who didn't understand him, and who ended up yelling at and insulting him, his mother, Peg Cottle, says. He wanted to enroll in a culinary school, but an administrator gently told him and his parents it wouldn't work out.
Four years ago, the Southwest Autism Research and Research Center, or SAARC, connected Cottle with a pastry chef who mentored him. In August 2012, he unexpectedly got an order from a cafe operated by Phoenix-based SAARC. At that point, Cottle told his parents he was starting his own baking business.
"I'm happy as an angel," he says.