Autism Warrior: Silvia Planas-Prats
Founder of Miami Is Kind Foundation, an industrial bakery offering employment opportunities for all kinds of professionals with autism or other disabilities, including bakers, customer service representatives, and warehouse operators.
For 20 years, Silvia was confident in the successful progression of her career as a businesswoman, but after the birth of Marc, her eldest son with autism, the notion of her identity and her goals began to waver. She held an executive leadership position in Barcelona, Spain, with DuPont Corporation for many years; unfortunately, Marc suffered from severe behavioral problems and a limited learning environment.
Dismissals from school, no socializing, and poor sleep were his daily experiences. After hearing about the many schooling opportunities offered in America from a fellow autism parent, Silvia and her husband made the decision to move to Miami.
Giving up her position at Dupont was difficult, but seeing her son develop into a young teen no longer hindered or overshadowed by autism was worth it. She was now more able to think about Marc’s future. Despite all the supports available in America, most are geared toward children. Employment opportunities for adults with autism are bleak, a challenge Silvia faced head on by applying everything she learned in a business-focused life and as Marc’s mother to open Miami Is Kind.
She now views herself as an advocate for autism employment and the foundation as “the bakery for the autism future.” Miami Is Kind provides space for autistic individuals to acquire skills, build self-esteem, and make an independent living with confidence as they make and pack baked goods to be sold online and in major Miami health stores. It is now a powerful network of volunteers who believe in autism employment and empowerment, and Silvia hopes it can inspire other companies to follow similar paths.
While leaving Barcelona for her son was one of the most consequential decisions of her life, the fact she chose Marc over her career now gives her peace of mind. It allowed her to create a sustainable model to give children with autism and other disabilities a better future, which has been a very humbling and fulfilling process. It has already helped more than 20 young adults, which Silvia considers a huge accomplishment for both herself and for all the incredible volunteers who run Miami Is Kind with a sincere, dedicated intention.
Silvia is inspired by the willingness to make Miami Is Kind a transformational enterprise for young adults with autism and what it has already done for many of them. It is ready to grow and become a caring family for even more individuals who need someone to believe in them to flourish. She is sure it will one day gain the sponsors needed to make a bigger impact.
One of Silvia’s recent goals has been to coordinate the first Miami Is Kind Foundation Gathering: “A world to be kind and have fun.” She, the volunteers, the bakers, and the packers all wish to inspire the community and reach many more individuals. Miami Is Kind’s biggest goal is to grow its influence and celebrate diversity and the spirit to defy the conventional. Those who believe in what the foundation is doing can assist by becoming sponsors, donating, buying its products, or volunteering.
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Advice for families affected by autism:
Commit to supporting your child all the way to adulthood and helping your child “expand his/her wings and fly…even if it’s just two inches above the ground.” Do this by focusing on your child’s abilities and helping identify potential jobs for him/her. Families touched by autism are intimately familiar with exhaustion, disappointment, and struggle of all kinds, so take breaks, have fun, and live healthy lives.
Balance your energies to give flying lessons when you are most equipped to handle them effectively, and don’t push yourself too hard. Believe in your children, be their advocate, and help shape the world in their favor by using your buying power. You support companies by buying from them, so make sure to choose those who are aligned with your interests and can help your child.
Silvia also passes on a final piece of advice she was once told: “You do not support Marc because you choose to…you support Marc because you brought him to this world because you are his mom and you and only you can help him the way you can help him.”
This article was featured in Issue 98 – Fresh ASD Guidance For A New Year