Paul Flehrer

Autistic man a celebrity of sorts:

By Ryan Clark • Enquirer contributor • April 3, 2010
NEWPORT – You may see him at the Liar’s Club, where he’ll be wearing a smile and mopping the floor. Or you may see him at NorthKey, cleaning offices and windows. You might even see him at BAWAC Inc., where – among other jobs – he loads boxes in a warehouse.

Then again, maybe you’ll notice 21-year-old Paul Fiehrer where he’s gotten his most fame – in the pool, where he is a champion swimmer. Maybe you’ll see him on the mound at Great American Ball Park, where he’s scheduled to throw out the first pitch before a Reds game April 10. Or you may even see some of his artwork some day.

Fiehrer, who has a form of autism, is a bit of a celebrity around these parts. He will advance on to the national swimming championships in the Special Olympics this summer in Nebraska.

Fiehrer recently achieved a goal he is equally proud of – in November, he got his first job out in the community, at the Liar’s Club pub, where he cleans bathrooms and stocks shelves part-time.

“I like doing it,” said Fiehrer, who lives in Covington. “I like talking to my boss – he’s a nice guy who gave me an opportunity.”

That would be Tony Costa, 35, of Covington, who recently took over ownership of the Liar’s Club. Working with BAWAC Inc., a local nonprofit that helps adults with disabilities find employment, Costa agreed to give Fiehrer a shot.

“He is a great worker,” Costa said. “If I ask him to do something, I know he’s going to do it – and do it the way I ask. Some people get comfortable in a job and take it for granted. The thing with Paul – when he comes in here, I can tell he appreciates the opportunity. And he does a really good job.”

Costa believes that everyone has the right to work, and as part of the BAWAC program, Fiehrer has a job coach on-site with him while he performs his duties. The goal is for Fiehrer to perform his tasks independently in the future.

Fiehrer also loves to paint, and he once sold a work for $500, which he donated to Special Olympics. Costa wants him to hang a painting in the Liar’s Club, and Fiehrer says he will do it. But first, he’s excited about helping to promote April as Autism Awareness Month by throwing out the first pitch before that Reds game.

“Not too many people get to do that,” Fiehrer said.
Then again, not too many people have competed in a national championship, sold a painting for $500 or worked so hard to get a job either.

“He gives me peace of mind,” Costa said. “There are a handful of things I don’t have to worry about anymore. He gets them done.”