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Your Dollars @ Work: Creating a unique chamber of commerce

The post below is by Audrey Todd, PhD, Chief Executive Officer of Food for Good Thought. Inspired by her experience with her son, who has autism, Dr. Todd created a company that provides both supported employment and gluten-free foods to individuals with autism as well as consumer with dietary sensitivities. Food for Good Thought was the recipient of a $35,000 grant from Autism Speaks to support adults with autism in pursuing innovative employment opportunities.

Are you or do you know of a person with autism interested in entrepreneurship or starting an innovative business? Contact this Unique Chamber of Commerce!

  • A young man in New England with autism is receiving consultation from a Consultant Pair in California on how to turn his public speaking skills into an internet business idea.
  • A young man in the South with ASD is consulting with a Consultant Pair in Chicago on building a personal exercise training service for others on the spectrum.  Next he can consult with a Consultant Pair in Ohio, comprised of a woman who teaches her own fitness classes at the YMCA and the provider who helped her set them up.
  • A mom in Florida is consulting with another mom in Florida about a starting a business that provides culinary jobs to persons with autism—both women have been inspired by the interests of their sons.
  • A young man on the spectrum in Ohio who is writing a screen play is deciding which Consultant Pair he should connect with first—the nonverbal man in Vermont who wrote and produced his own film, the National Best Seller author who lives on her animal sanctuary in Illinois, or the 16 year-old visual artist (also in Ohio) who already has his own creative talent agent.

If the reader hasn’t already guessed, these Consultants have autism, and they are guiding Clients with autism (and/or their families) in “working outside of the box.” This opportunity, free-of-charge to persons with autism and their families across the country, is funded by a Small Business Technical Assistance award through Autism Speaks.

It is well established that most people obtain jobs through social networking and word-of-mouth; persons with Autism Spectrum Disorder, however, often do not have the social capital to leverage in finding employment. And oftentimes, even when they are able to attain work, the course of an autistic person’s “career” is usually jagged, with prolonged periods of idleness in between brief vocational experiences. Typically such a trajectory (or lack thereof) does not add up to what we would consider a true career. This is what we, as a community, need to change.

Partnered with Autism Speaks, Food for Good Thought has hired 20 Consultant Pairs (along 14 Career Clusters) across the country to mentor and guide our autism community nationwide in pursuing innovative employment opportunities. Consultant Pairs are comprised of one Consultant with ASD and one Consultant without ASD, and all consultation is free-of-charge to our national autism community.

Collectively the Consultant Pairs that have been selected comprise a diverse menu of career consultation selections from which the autism community can choose. Nationally, this project can create an interconnected network of like-minded colleagues, a Unique Chamber of Commerce, to assist persons with ASD on their career trajectory.

Are you a person with autism interested in entrepreneurship or starting your own business? Contact us today to get in touch with our Consultant pairs! Email Dr. Audrey Todd at Todd@FoodforGoodThought.com for additional information and to get started.

uniquechamberofcommerce.com/

The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.