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Young adults with autism learn valuable skills at GAP Shadow Day

September 24, 2015


On September 24, fifteen select GAP stores across the country participated in GAP Shadow Day 2015, hosting in-store job shadowing for young adults on the spectrum to learn the skill sets of GAP employees. Students rotated throughout the store, helping at the registers, stocking inventory, and performing other duties alongside GAP mentors. On September 25, an annual fundraising and awareness campaign begins. For the first time, almost 600 GAP stores throughout the United States will participate in Closing the GAP on Autism. Read some of their shadow day stories below!

GAP Flagship Store Herald Square, Manhattan, NY

Employees of the GAP flagship store in Herald Square, Manhattan, welcomed four individuals from the Manhattan JCC’s jobs program to take part in their annual Shadow Day. The Shadow Day participants were welcomed by three of the store’s employee leaders, who started off with the GAP’s new employee video followed by an in-depth tour of the whole store, including the stock room, sales floors and fitting rooms!

The morning took the participants through a new employee tour, where they learned everything from how their iconic jeans are made, to how to greet customers at the front door! This was a great chance for the young men and women taking part in today’s program to learn all of the aspects of what it’s like to work in retail, and an even better opportunity for GAP’s employees to give back to their community. Thank you to the GAP for this great opportunity and helping us to work on closing the gap on autism!

GAP Store Santa Clara, California

Stephen, Justin, and Natalia came prepared with their resumes in hand for Autism Speaks GAP Job Shadow Day. Even though it was not a job interview, each participant shared their strengths as they worked alongside GAP employees to learn how to provide guest services, stock items, and observe security protocol. 

This was the first opportunity for the GAP at Valley Fair in San Jose and they invited Autism Speaks back for more collaborative opportunities where individuals with autism can identify their job readiness skills and tap into new ones. Stephen, Natalia, and Justin enjoyed helping customers, learning about loss prevention, and participating in customer service. The partnership with Autism Speaks and The GAP through the Shadow Day experience provided opportunities for each to practice socialization skills and tap into new skills.  

GAP Store Greensboro, NC

On Thursday, September 24th 13 individuals from the Guilford County Schools participated in "Gap Career Day" at the Friendly Center Shopping Center in Greensboro, North Carolina. Gap store managers Sharon Moore and her colleagues were paired with young adults on the autism spectrum for the day for on-the job experience in greeting customers, working the cash register, tidying fitting rooms and running the floor during normal business hours.

"Adults living with autism often have difficulty finding programs and supports that would allow them to live as independently as possible," said Autism Speaks executive director for the Carolinas Kelli Embler. "We are delighted to partner with the GAP in our communities across the country again this year to augment these individuals' post-secondary education and employment training."

Sharon Moore, store manager, said, "As a Gap manager I really look forward to working with Autism Speaks on an annual basis. My entire store is bought into the event and everyone loves volunteering for the job shadowing portion. We enjoy working with the participants and getting to know them. They also learn a great deal about how a retail store works behind the scenes. We do a little work and then we snack and have a little fun. Great times for all!"

GAP Store Denver, Colorado

Students from Garden Autism and Spectra Autism Center came out today to participate in GAP's Shadow Day! Participants learned how to greet customers, operate the registers, and help with merchandise. All attendees received a "graduation" certificate for learning how to be a good GAP employee.  

GAP Store Charlotte, NC

On Friday, October 2nd, individuals participating in a job skills class with InReach participated in the GAP Shadow Day at GAP South Park Mall in Charlotte, North Carolina. Managers Jessica Kauth and Jason Williams taught the participating adults about various job responsibilities, from pricing and tagging clothing to correct techniques for hanging and folding the clothes for the sales floor.

Elaine Walters, InReach Job Development Associate, was delighted about the opportunity to expose InReach customers to a major retailer and the inventory and stockroom skills needed to keep the store running smoothly.  “Our customers had so much fun with everyone while learning new skills – a terrific opportunity for all. From our perspective, this opportunity creates job opportunities while also introducing their abilities to businesses that can then advocate and educate others about hiring those with disabilities… We are very grateful to Autism Speaks for inviting us to participate.  We look forward to more collaborative efforts between Autism Speaks and InReach.”

The day was completed with a mini-celebration of the accomplishments made, and even included the signature move of the day – raising the roof. 

One volunteer said, "Last Friday was truly a great experience for everyone involved. Thank you so much for teaching and guiding us throughout this whole process. As you already know, I was a bit apprehensive not having any experience with Autism and what the expectations were of me as a volunteer. After meeting these individuals, you learn to understand that they are truly like everyone else with their own special talents. I believe sometimes the biggest fear is the unknown and I could only wish that more people would step out of their comfort zone to learn more about individuals with Autism, in hopes of making the world a more acceptable place for them. Thank you once again for putting this experience together for us. We will be keeping in touch with InReach for possible shadowing opportunities, as well as possible employment for one of the three individuals."