Unique skill turns into a business for Edmonton man with autism

Above: It’s always wise advice to be yourself and make the most of your talents. That’s exactly what a young Edmonton man living with autism is doing, using his skills to build a furniture business. Su-Ling Goh reports.

EDMONTON –  An Edmonton man with severe autism may not be able to read or speak, but Brad Fremmerlid has a knack for something that many of us often find tedious and difficult.

“I could give him a complex LEGO Technic project, up to 1,000 pieces, with over 100 pages of instructions – and without any help at all, he’ll simply open up the box, go through the instructions, and he’ll build it perfectly,” said his dad, Mark.

Brad has become an expert at reading instruction diagrams and building things after years of practice.

“When he was younger, we always had to keep him busy, so I had him build models. And I thought the best therapy for him to develop his mind was to always build something different.”

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After building about 2,000 projects over the past 20 years, the 24-year-old has now started building for others through his company, “Made By Brad.”

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Sonya Thompson became one of his customers after seeing a video showcasing his work on Facebook.

She says that he came over and put together her armoire in about two-and-a-half hours – something which otherwise would’ve been an onerous, weekend-long project for her.

“So it’s really nice to have someone who loves to do it, come in and do it.”

Thompson was so impressed with Brad’s workmanship that she asked him to come back and set up a filing cabinet.

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Brad’s father says the business is not about making money – the charge just $10 to $20 dollars per job; it’s more about giving his son a chance to contribute to society, and expand his mind.

It seems to be doing the trick. Even Thompson said she noticed little differences in Brad during his second visit to her home.

“This time I got really nice eye contact from him and a smile. And last time he wasn’t interested in the cats at all, and this time he seems quite entertained by them.”

His dad says that while they don’t really have an end goal, they’re enjoying the journey so far.

“Every time he completes a new challenge, I think he feels better about himself,” he said. “And he’s becoming more curious about the world.”

With files from Su-Ling Goh, Global News

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