SARRC Adults with Autism Bake Their Way to Self-Sufficiency in 2013

The Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center (SARRC) is set to launch a new program in collaboration with the Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council (ADDPC), which will advance self-sufficiency and promote independence for adults with autism. Through a $91,568 grant provided by the ADDPC in a competitive bidding process, SARRC will expand its entrepreneurial training through the Self-Employment Leads to Freedom (SELF) project. Using the Home Baked and Confectionary Goods regulations enacted by the 2011 State Legislature, the program will incorporate a 10-week course, offering training and support to adults with autism and their families, in developing home baked-goods that can be sold to start a small business.

A three-part curriculum will utilize classroom and home-based training to cover all aspects of running a confectionary goods operation. From recipe development to product marketing and customer service, staff at SARRC's Vocational and Life Skills Academy (VLSA) will coach the program's participants to create and execute their own business plans.

We appreciate SARRC's commitment to training people and helping them become self-supporting members of the community, said Will Humble, Chair of the Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council, which provided funding for the course. We are confident SARRC will create a model self-employment program that will help folks in our state.

During the program's first section, The Basics,students will learn about guidelines established by the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) enabling them to apply for a food handler's card. They will learn about insurance needs and labeling requirements, to ensure compliance with state regulations and health codes. Participants will also obtain support with financial planning for their business.

The second part of the program, Creating Your Business, focuses on product development, distribution and pricing. Students will perfect their recipes and establish a foundation for their business. A staff-conducted home evaluation will bring participants up-to-speed on inventory, equipment and power. Students will register their business with the ADHS prior to launch.

Finally, in the Running a Business stage of the program, students will learn about the power of social media and other promotional devices to elevate their brand. During this section, an emphasis is placed on listening to customer feedback in order to foster success and retain clients.

SARRC is thrilled to offer such a pioneering, entrepreneurial program for our clients, said SARRC President Jeri Kendle. Self-Employment Leads to Freedom (SELF) project is a tangible path for our adults with autism, and their families, to find freedom and success.

The project is set to run in 2013, with the first of four 10-week sessions starting January to March at the Vocational and Life Skills Academy at 2225 N. 16th Street in Phoenix, Ariz. The course will repeat each quarter, with the intent to train approximately eight individuals each session.

Individual and small group classes will take place at the VLSA on Fridays from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and home visits are an important part of the program. The program is offered at no cost. Individuals wishing to enroll must be fully committed and have family support.

The ADDPC seeks to develop, support and maintain employment for persons with developmental disabilities; to provide them with appropriate choices and opportunities to work in jobs matched to their interests and skills, while being compensated with appropriate wages and benefits.