Pace finds his comfort zone at Kraft and in art world

It didn’t take long for Pace Johnson to become a valuable member of the Kraft team. But it did take a little experimenting by both Pace and his supervisor, Regina Crabb.

Pace, 23, was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) before he was 2 years old. Lee Kraft, a retired member (owner) and the son of our firm’s founder, recommended Pace for a role at KraftCPAs.

“We had to find a job he liked to do — stamping envelopes was not it!” Regina recalled of Pace’s first day in July 2018. “The sound the stamp makes is a sensory challenge. We found that he could perform other tasks like putting on labels and stuffing envelopes just fine.”

Once assigned the appropriate responsibilities, Pace adapted quickly. He now comes to the Nashville office twice a month to help with administrative tasks, like organizing and assembling mass mailings. His quality of work is exceptional because of “how meticulous and particular he is at his job,” Regina said.

Pace’s artwork titled “Jellyfish” won a statewide award. Much of his work will be on display at the Vanderbilt Curb Art Center as part of its Ambassadors of Autism exhibit.

“I found a comfortable workspace for him and always have his supplies ready,” said Regina, who has been encouraged by Pace’s quick adjustments to his surroundings — a process that can be a challenge to the one in 59 children diagnosed with ASD, according to national statistics. “Now that we’ve found appropriate tasks for Pace, he really seems to be coming out of his shell.”

Pace finds plenty of ways to stay busy outside of his duties at Kraft. Expanding upon a talent he first demonstrated as a child, Pace developed a unique dry brush technique to create multiple pieces of art, one of which — titled “Jellyfish,” from his Sea Creatures series — won a statewide award. Two of his pieces were featured as part of the Creative Expressions Art Show at Vanderbilt Kennedy Center a few months ago, and about 10 more are on display now through September at the Ambassadors for Autism show at the Vanderbilt Curb Art Center. That exhibit will open April 26 to commemorate National Autism Awareness Month.

Since his diagnosis as a child, Pace has learned to swim, ride horses, and drive a horse cart, as well as perform impressive circus skills learned from family friends who are aerialists and acrobats. He’s a voracious reader, loves music, movies, and playing with Folkmanis puppets. And, although he is a man of few words, he was happy to share his five keys to success in the workplace:

  1. Keep all contracts, especially arriving on time
  2. Be cheerful
  3. Enjoy your breaks but never take more than four pieces of candy from the treat drawer
  4. High-quality work, done with care, is better than high quantity sloppily done
  5. Always give a little more than asked for, and remember to say “thank you” and “you’re welcome”

“The opportunity to work at KraftCPAs, to be respected and appreciated, has given him a new feeling of self-worth and a great deal of joy,” said Pace’s mother, Mary Donnet-Johnson. “As he continues to produce art, and build confidence on the job, who knows what Pace may accomplish?

“People with autism can be very smart, sensitive, diligent, affectionate, and creative. Just like all of us, folks on the autism spectrum are capable of continued learning and growth throughout the lifespan. Believe in the person. Expect the best. And celebrate all accomplishments, no matter how small. Everyone at KraftCPAs knows that great success is often built on a series of very small steps.”

We’re proud to have Pace as part of the Kraft team, and we look forward to seeing what he will accomplish with Kraft as well as in the art community.

© 2019

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