A Parkdale resident with autism has the unique ability to understand any diagram or blueprint and he transfers that skill into assembling furniture.
When Brad Fremmerlid was 15 years old, he and his parents moved from Wabasca to Edmonton, where he was placed in a residential home. He can’t read or speak and has trouble with comprehension, but Brad excelled in using simple sign language as a form of communication. It was also discovered around this time his talent for constructing LEGO by looking at the image on the box.
Mark, Brad’s father, would gradually make the LEGO constructions more complicated, introducing diagrams or instructions for assembly. Eventually, Mark was able to get Brad to assemble furniture after doing 1,000 piece LEGO projects. Brad was able to adapt to this very quickly and can now assemble furniture within hours.
Lisa Chambers, a customer of Brad’s, shares on her Facebook page that he “Put together my new pantry in less than ninety minutes from start to finish. He was super organized and meticulous and the finished product looks great!”
Mark thought assembling furniture would be a great way to keep Brad occupied. A day program allowed him to be hired by the hour to keep him busy.
According to the Made by Brad website, “Brad’s dad, Mark, started this business so that Brad could do what he’s best at, feel a sense of accomplishment, and be an active part of the community.”
Brad ended up getting busier and more active in assembling furniture in his business, Made by Brad, when his story went viral because of a news feature and social media.
“He is pretty efficient and costs less than a handyman,” says Mark. He adds that customers should keep in mind that because he has autism, his behaviour may be unusual at times. “Brad may inspect your fridge as he sees what he might get for a snack, as he was given many in the past,” explains Mark.
Brad is now 33 years old, and since the pandemic started, the day program has shut down. The day program used to take him to jobs, but now Lina, his residential program supervisor, takes him. Mark occasionally takes Brad.
Brad needs people around, but is getting to be more independent daily.
Communication can be a challenge for Brad, but he picks up on what his father will say, especially if it is something concrete. This allows Brad to comprehend what is being said. He does use some sign language, though it is still a work in progress. However, further progress would involve having a workable program available to him.
Mark reflects on his son and says, “I basically look at Brad as a good guy, a cool guy, and he likes people.”Brad works for $15 per hour, doing roughly 150 jobs in a year. For more information, visit madebybrad.com.