Autism Parenting Magazine Issue 74 (Member's Dashboard) - Page 29

PERSONAL NARRATIVE and, in the end, you get a yummy reward. It was very satisfying work for him. Being a chef would have been impossible for my son. He wasn’t verbal enough to make it through an in- terview. If a restaurant would take a chance on him, he’d be relegated to the dishwasher.  He has an in- credible palate and, like most people on the spec- trum, amazing attention to detail, and process skills. A dishwashing position would be a waste of his po- tential and most likely a disaster. To live the life you want, to enjoy your work, and to feel validated is important for everyone—especial- ly for someone with special needs. Work must be enjoyable. Otherwise, it’s another tedious task in a world that doesn’t always make sense. So, with a lot of hope and hustle, we decided to make his dream of being a chef a reality and give other people’s chil- dren opportunities for meaningful work as well. Our employees produce high-quality gluten- and dairy- free baked goods. The company has grown from four employees on the spectrum to 13. We are a scalable social enterprise. All our employees earn a wage. Their work is of the same value as their non-disabled peers. Our shop opened in Carmel, Indiana, in 2017. Not everyone can become an entrepreneur. But there are some things I did to help my son become the man he was meant to be. Start identifying your child’s passion early. It may not be a traditional career. It may simply be a compulsion to complete tasks. We also enrolled him in an online public charter school powered by K12. It afforded us the flexibility to try different things. When we removed him from the tra- ditional brick-and-mortar school setting, he thrived. He needed an anxiety-free zone. K12 lets us identify his best learning style and space. This also empow- ered him to become successful as an adult. All parents want their children to grow to be happy, fulfilled people. As a parent of someone with special needs, you should expect no less. Everyone wants to do something interesting. Everyone wants to feel like they are doing something useful. Everyone wants to feel like their work is needed, that need gives one a feeling that they are important. Work adds to one’s self-worth.  You don’t have to open a business but start early identifying what your child finds reinforc- ing and where he/she thrives. You’ll find his/her place because your greatest role is being your child’s most vocal and enthusiastic supporter. Shelly Henley is the owner of No Label at the Table, a gluten-free and dairy-free baked goods company, and a parent of an adult child with autism. No Label at the Table’s goal is to function as a successful bak- ery with a certified gluten-free kitchen that provides employment opportunities and job skills training for people with autism. Website: Autism Parenting Magazine | Issue 74 | 29