Financial planning for your autistic child’s future can be scary. Learn about Samuel and how his parents took the initiative to start a business to support his future.
Samuel is 24 years old. He was born in Round Rock, Texas. He was diagnosed with PDD-NOS at age four. He began speech and physical therapy soon after. He was homeschooled by Sally, his mother, until the seventh grade. Samuel attended middle and high school in Hutto Independent School District. He graduated from high school in 2017 and attended the Hutto ISD 18+ Program until 2020.
Samuel received some job training through the Hutto ISD 18+ Program, along with other students with differing abilities. Some of these students held part-time jobs out in the community through the 18+ program. Several had job coaches.
Samuel is very verbal with us, his parents, but not around other people. He has many OCD behaviors and is quite rigid in his daily routines. He responds well to instruction but needs constant prompts and reminders to stay on task. Samuel is also very distractible. Samuel does not like change. He does not like strangers. He gets along better with women. Samuel does not like loud noises or to be touched.
Samuel has quite a few interests. He likes trains, elevators, toilets, video games, bells, clocks, and Walmart, to name a few. He really likes the Walmart in Clifton Park, New York. We have visited it three times in the last four years. He also likes the Walmart on the west side of Flint, Michigan. Both Walmart stores have a unique feature to their public address system. A sound like a train horn is emitted before each announcement. Samuel really likes this.
Samuel likes to take rides in the car. He likes to listen to music on the radio while riding. He is fond of Katy Perry. Samuel has the ability to “mash-up” songs. He knows which songs go together. One song will be playing on the radio and Samuel will be singing another song along with it at the same time.
In 2017, Sally and I started thinking about what Samuel’s life would be like after he aged out of the public school system. We were concerned about his future. We were both getting older and worried about Samuel having enough money once we were no longer around.
I retired from being a teacher in 2020. Not a lot of money there. We wanted to provide Samuel with a safe and secure place to work that allows for his needs as a person with differing abilities. We also wanted to try to earn money to put aside for his future.
Financial planning for Samuel
We started thinking about starting a business in 2017. I was still working full-time as a teacher. Initially, we thought we would have Samuel make a product which we would then sell. This proved to not be Samuel’s “cup of tea”.
We researched more options, finally hitting on the idea of offering socks for sale online through a website. We used nights, weekends, holidays, and summers to research and lay the groundwork for SammySocks Etc.
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We started SammySocks Etc. in September 2020. We are quite small currently. Samuel puts together our information packet. He puts a candy treat, a discount coupon, a poem, a Sammy Saying, and a card explaining our story into a baggie. This baggie goes with every order. He also puts together our Bells and Whistles Bag. Sally or I serve as his job coach.
We also wanted to possibly include other adults with differing abilities. We realized that as we grew, Samuel might need a job coach, separate from either Sally or myself, to help provide onsite assistance with the various tasks associated with working at the business. Other adults that we might employ would also benefit from a job coach. We spoke with people involved with the Hutto ISD 18+ program and they were receptive to the idea of some of their students working at our business and of offering job coaches, if needed.
We have not done a lot of business yet, so Samuel has not worked a lot. As we grow, this will change. Also, as we are able, we hope to employ other adults with differing abilities. Additionally, we hope to offer other apparel items. That is why there is the “Etc.” in our name.
As we continue on our journey, I wanted to share some ideas with other parents considering work options for their children with autism.
Tips for creating work opportunities for a family member with autism
- Use local high schools and see if they have a program for students with differing abilities for vocational training and job support
- Use your local church or house of worship for help and support. You can network for possible job opportunities there as well
- Plan on spending a lot of time finding training, a job, or setting up a business
- For your own business, start small. We spent about $10,000 on inventory, equipment, furniture, and supplies to get started
- Expect to make mistakes
- Keep good financial records. Consult with a Certified Public Accountant and a Business Lawyer
- Get business insurance if you are starting your own business
- Advertise your business
- Have a presence on social media for your business
- Seek advice from retired small business people to help with your business
- Have your business become a member of your local Chamber of Commerce
- See how any government assistance benefits (SSI and/or Social Security) may be affected with either a job or starting a business
- Contact local colleges and/or universities to inquire about help with job coaches. Students may need to “intern” at a business to get credit for courses they may be taking
- Don’t get discouraged
This article was featured in Issue 126 – Romantic Relationships and Autism