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Dan Has Proven to be a Valuable SeaWorld Employee who Can Also Name Just About Any Song!

Updated: Jun 12

Dan smiling at SeaWorld

Dan, who has autism and is partially deaf, was recently honored at the SeaWorld “Dine with Orcas” Gala for his one year of dedicated service. A client with the Toward Maximum Independence (TMI) Supported Employment program, TMI assisted Dan with securing employment at SeaWorld and he has been loving it there ever since!

Dan working at SeaWorld under Andy's guidance
Dan working at SeaWorld under Andy's guidance

Being 50% deaf in one year and 30% in the other, and wearing hearing aids has been challenging for Dan, but being a Cashier at SeaWorld has given him the confidence he needs to succeed! When he first started, he had to handle cash, close out his drawer and count the money. Now that SeaWorld is cashless, Dan deals with Apple Pay, credit cards and many other electronic payment methods. He is very tech savvy, and this has given him an opportunity to shine. Dan has even shown his TMI Employment Facilitator Andy Palasciano some shortcuts on the iPhone!

“Dan feels great that he is contributing to society and having a great time doing it,” said Andy. “He is very friendly and has made friends at SeaWorld, who are also a big support to him. He is a joyful person and has never, in the whole time I have known him, complained about having hearing loss. If anything, he sees it as a challenge that he is more than up for!”

Dan and his sister at Knott's Berry Farm
Dan and his sister at Knott's Berry Farm

According to Andy, Dan is a “human Shazam" app! Shazam is an app that identifies music, movies, advertising, and television shows, based on a short sample played and using the microphone on a device. Dan can identify 90% of the songs that they play at SeaWorld, as well as the artist without having to use an app. His co-workers love this! Dan helps them to have a good day and he is very popular there!

Dan at Petco Park rooting on the Dodgers!
Dan at Petco Park rooting on the Dodgers!

In his free time, Dan enjoys watching sports including his favorites the Los Angeles Dodgers for baseball and the Green Bay Packers for football. He also watched almost every Men’s World Cup match and plans to watch all of the Women’s World Cup. Dan occasionally plays his favorite video game “Test Drive Unlimited.” He also enjoys movies and shows. Dan is always telling Andy and his friends at SeaWorld about a new show or movie that made him laugh or impressed him. One time, Dan told Andy of the longest baseball game ever played which was the Pawtucket Red Sox and the Rochester Red Wings. It lasted 33 innings, with 8 hours and 25 minutes of playing time. 32 innings were played April 18–19, 1981, at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, and the final 33rd inning was played June 23, 1981. Pawtucket won the game, 3–2. Dan is full of information! He also brings a lot of laughter with him to work and shares it with all.

“Dan has silenced critics by working as a Cashier at SeaWorld for a year,” added Andy. “I hope Dan will remain at SeaWorld and show what can be possible with a great attitude and a life filled with joy. Dan was thrilled to be honored for one year of service and hopes to have many more to come!”

Dan and his parents at ASL Night at Petco Park
Dan and his parents at ASL Night at Petco Park

Dan, who went to Madison High School, credits his American Sign Language (ASL) teacher, Arinn Smith, for changing his life. He will never forget all that she taught him and the fun that he had in high school! Dan also has a great family who truly supports him.

“TMI has helped me to have fun and enjoy my job,” said Dan. “We laugh a lot, but we also stay focused and get our work done.”

We are all very proud of you, Dan! Keep up the great work. The sky is the limit!

Dan at home

SeaWorld has also been praised for its inclusive hiring practices. In 2017, they were awarded the Autism Society of America's Employer of the Year Award. Thank you to SeaWorld for partnering with us to transform the lives of our clients! LEARN MORE about the benefits for businesses for partnering with us.

(Thank you to Andy Palasciano for contributing to this story.)


It is the mission of the Toward Maximum Independence (TMI) Supported Employment program to support, enhance and educate the general workforce population on the contributing value of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Through personalized integration, training and advocacy, TMI helps to develop the capabilities and strengths of all people desiring to work.


Toward Maximum Independence (TMI) has been transforming the lives of children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities since 1981 and the Deaf and Hard of Hearing since 2000. In 2020, we launched Disabled Veteran Employment Services. TMI strives to help our clients to realize their hopes and dreams by providing Employment Solutions, Community Living and Family Support Services throughout San Diego, Riverside and Imperial Counties. To stay connected with us, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. Together we can share acceptance and awareness, ultimately contributing to further inclusion.


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