AUSTIN, Texas – Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, a Central Texas family has started a business selling socks in order to provide an inclusive workplace for their son, who has autism.  

“He just is Samuel, and this is how his brain works," said Sally Lyons, mother to 23-year-old Samuel. 

Samuel is on the autism spectrum and these days he spends much of his time playing video games and watching America's Funniest Home Videos, but a year ago he was in his public high school's 18+ program. 

“We wanted him to continue to be able to socialize and interact with his peers and get training – vocational training, something for him to do during the day," said Samuel's father, Mark Lyons. 

When the pandemic hit, Samuel's final year in the program was cut short. 

“Once they age out of the educational system there doesn't seem to be a whole lot programs and benefits for them to be able to be independent and self-sufficient on their own," said Mark Lyons. 

The Lyons had been hoping to get Samuel a job coach, someone who helps people with disabilities prepare for employment, but that wasn’t possible with the pandemic. 

So they decided to start their own company selling socks, in which Samuel could work with the accommodations he needs. 

“We wanted to have a place that was safe for him, a place that understands his needs. When he gets upset, we have a place for him to cool down. He can break anytime he wants. So it wasn't gonna be a hard and fast 'start here you end here' kind of a workday," said Mark Lyons. 

They named the company Sammy Socks Etc. – embellishing the logo with a peacock feather. 

“Samuel is tactilely defensive and doesn't like to be touched. And the reason why we picked the peacock feather was because it's a feather light touch, and that might be something that he would be able to tolerate," said Sally Lyons. 

While the Lyons hope the business can eventually provide financial security for Samuel if anything were to happen to them, they also hope to eventually be able to employ other people on the autism spectrum. 

“We’ve already got people kind of in a waiting list going when, 'As soon as you hire somebody let me know because I have a daughter, I have a son – I'd like for them to come work for you,’” said Sally Lyons. "There's just so many people that are coming in to the adult workforce that have different needs like this. So we're trying to fulfill a need.”

The goal being to spread the word about the importance of inclusive workplaces that make every employee feel valued, while embracing their differences. ​