Oliver Kult is the owner of Maison Privee, a trendy barber shop in Old Montreal. Inspired by his sister, who works with people with autism, he wanted to do his part.
Seventeen-year-old Jeremy Leveille, who’s autistic, is a new fixture in the shop. Kult invited Leveille to take on an internship of sorts at the shop, part of a program giving people with autism work experience.
“I’m hoping that it’s going to help him develop some kind of self-confidence, because I didn’t have self-confidence before starting my own business,” he said.
The shop itself has its appeal to the students in the program, Kult explained, because they think the hip-hop and tattooed barbers lend the space a “cool vibe.”
As part of the internship, Leveille spends his time cleaning up the shop – sweeping the floor and washing windows. They’re all tasks that he says are “really fun.”
“The people here are really nice, and sometimes I’m really shy, but they try to everything to make me comfortable,” Leveille said.
“[And] I like the style of the place – it’s really beautiful,” he added.
At the beginning of the internship, Leveille mostly kept to himself. But only one month, staff began to notice a change in his demeanor.
“I would say he’s a lot more comfortable with us,” Kult said. “At first, he was a lot more shy, like we would have to go to him, but now he’ll just come to us and ask us questions.”
It’s an improvement that Leveille says he’s proud of – now, he comes into the shop and says hello to everyone.
And through these small gestures and Leveille’s steady progress, Kult hopes to spread awareness of young people living with autism and enjoying the day-to-day.