As a society, we have come a very long way to embrace children with autism in the educational system. Still, we have not made good educated progress to integrate adults across the autism spectrum to the workforce. As a society, we must break down the barriers and create new paths to employment.
“In the United States, thirty-five percent of autistic eighteen-year-olds go to college. Of those American people with autism with university diplomas, only 15 percent are employed. This 85 percent unemployment and underemployment rate (among college-educated adults with autism) is massive. It is estimated an additional 500,000 Americans with ASD will be seeking employment over the next decade. However, today’s job market is unprepared for this wave of prospective employees.”
Developing meaningful employment opportunities to adults with autism gives them the chance of living a successful and independent life. Involving adults within the spectrum in the workplace creates an all-inclusive work-culture and promotes community growth and becomes a critical solution to the autism job gap.
In Miami, Florida a bakery called Miami Is Kind is an innovative small business that puts adults with autism to work. It is the living example of the progress being made, by a single woman, who decided to become the needed change in her community to close the unemployment gap and to ensure that adults with autism can live full, independent, and meaningful lives by becoming successful members of society. Silvia provides the needed autonomy, participation, and inclusion to society, through the dignity of vocational training and employment to bakers with autism. The precision and affinity for repetitive tasks are a perfect fit for the job. Those qualities are also hallmarks of autism functioning. Harnessing their talents such as above-average intelligence, precision, and honesty is what it is really valued at Miami is Kind where hiring adults with autism is a good business decision.
“Adequate instruction, a properly structured workplace, and an enjoyable learning atmosphere, autistic and disabled young adults can excel at a workplace and can make the companies they work for profitable. In a few years, they will be seen as the pioneers in an even Kinder Miami that will see people with Autism/disABILITIES as contributors of our community each of them in their diverse/unique ways.” Silvia Planas.
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Miami Is Kind’s core belief is that adults with autism and developmental disabilities are capable of holding a job and doing meaningful work. Regardless of whether they are high, mid- or lower-functioning employees, each task is assigned based on what the employee can contribute to the business. Every operation is broken down and organized to fit each baker. Bakers arrive to work, school teacher volunteers help them with social skills, and with the process of baking the macaroons. Together they weigh, mix and shape the ingredients to put them in the oven. Then they work on the packaging and the shipping of the orders nationwide.
The gourmet macaroons are vegan and gluten-free made with almond base and flower, coconut, and presented in 10 different flavors such as lemon, orange, strawberry, raspberry, chocolate, rum, and stevia. Working in Miami Is Kind, gives them the opportunity to socialize with co-workers what improves their mental health and wellness. Every box sold provides salaries to the passionate bakers, and the opportunity for Silvia to keep employing additional bakers.
Imagine as a society how much more could be accomplished if we are all involved and aware of eradicating archaic, stereotypes, and stigmas about autism which are indeed the greatest barrier to their full and equal participation in society?
Show your desire of a more inclusive society by helping Silvia reach her 2020 Goal of employing 20 more adults with autistic abilities as bakers, packers, warehouse operators, maintenance crew, customer service reps, and dispatchers. You can contribute to the critical work that needs to be done by contacting Silvia or by checking out the Miami Is Kind website.
This article was featured in Issue 78 – Back to School Success