Dancing Toronto Starbucks barista with autism goes viral
Published Tuesday, January 26, 2016 9:16AM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, January 26, 2016 12:11PM EST
Busting a move while brewing coffee is helping an autistic teen build his confidence, the manager at a Toronto Starbucks says.
Sam, a high school student at Toronto's Marshall McLuhan Catholic Secondary School, is using dance to channel the sudden movements caused by his disorder.
Starbucks store manager Chris Ali, who hired Sam a few months ago, said the pair stumbled upon Sam's talent while listening to music at work.
"It was something that kind of came along. Sam is a great character and he loves to dance," Ali told CTV News Channel on Tuesday.
"Bringing dance to his routines at work really helped focus on settling down some of his movement disabilities he's had."
Ali said the dancing is also building Sam's confidence, and helping him become a better barista.
"The customers love it. Sam's been really connecting with the customers, having a great time," Ali said, adding that many people visit the location specifically to see Sam's moves.
Already popular with customers, the teen has now become an Internet sensation after a video was posted to YouTube, showing Sam dancing as he prepares a drink for a customer. Since it went online Friday, it had racked up nearly 140,000 views by Tuesday morning.
The video was posted by Carly Fleischmann, a young woman with autism so severe that she cannot speak. Instead, Fleischman uses writing to communicate, and has posted blogs and co-authored a book to share her story.
"When he was offered a position to work at Starbucks Sam told his parents that for the first time in his life, that his life had real meaning," Fleischmann wrote online Friday.
Like many with autism, Sam has a movement disorder, Fleischmann wrote. He has a hard time keeping his body still, and never thought he'd be able to work behind the coffee counter because of his sudden movements.
"But his manager Chris believed in him and got Sam to channel his movements into dance," she wrote.
"Sam is now known as the dancing barista. If it wasn't for Chris believing in Sam he would (have) never believed in himself."
Fleischmann posted a video of the teen steaming milk has he dances and bobs his head to the beat. As he adds whipped cream to the drink, Sam's manager can be seen dancing in the background.
At the end of the video, they dance together and smile at the camera.