At the Smile Lodge in Clifton Park, Alex Flores and Duane Salisbury are responsible for sterilizing the dentistry tools. It’s tedious, repetitive, but really important work.

The pair have worked full time there for about 6 years.

“It’s been pretty good,” says Flores. “Great people here. I like working here.”

Flores and Salisbury both have autism. They found the job through Wildwood Programs.

For years prior, the Smile Lodge struggled to fill the positions.

“It’s hard because it’s a very routine job, over and over and over,” says Dr. Eric McMahon. “I think some people just kind of can’t stick with it and do the good job they need to do every time ’cause they just want to be talking, doing other things.”

Dr. McMahon says they look to hire from Wildwood all the time. In his experience, employees from there have been dedicated and long lasting.

“Like all of our employees, we let them know like you’ve gotta show up to work on time, you have to work on this; we don’t sugar coat or do any different, it’s the same for everybody, but the nice thing about Wildwood is you have another person that will have those one on one talks and get us all on the same page,” says Dr. McMahon.

That’s where Joan Reilly comes in. She’s a direct support professional, or DSP.

“Everyone deserves a job if they want to work,” says Reilly.

Joan helps people with disabilities find the jobs they’re interested in, apply, interview, and once they secure the position, she assists with training. She also works with the employer to make sure they know how to best support their new employee.

“In the beginning, we’re there often just to make sure that there’s no issues,” says Reilly. “We leave that really up to the employer and the individual until we find that they have really learned the job well.”

Reilly admits that Flores and Salisbury know a lot more about their work at this point than she does. But she checks in a few times a month and is always a phone call away.

“These guys are great; they’ve come a long, long way,” says Reilly. “I think it’s a matter of pride that they work here also.”

The extra support is free to the employer. It’s something Dr. McMahon wishes more people knew about.

He hopes their success at the Smile Lodge will challenge other employers to think differently about who they’re hiring.

“This place could not run without our team and our commitment to Wildwood, and Wildwood helping us,” says Dr. McMahon. “It’s been such a blessing, and we’re so lucky to have them as great team members, and I really mean that from the bottom of my heart.”