Hiring people with Autism turned out to be “a smart thing to do” for a bakery owner, Jean Kroll. The Evanston, Chicago based bakery owner hired three individuals with Autism after their unpaid internship to a 20 hour a week job, paying $8.25 an hour.
While Kroll, at first was unsure about hiring individuals with disabilities, she soon found out that autistic individuals are more productive than a regular bakery worker. Have Dreams, an organization aimed at supporting people with disabilities had asked Kroll if she had any opportunities for men and women with autism.
At that point of time, Kroll could only offer a job of building and labeling cookie boxes for her. Soon, she along with Have Dreams started a job training program which also received a grant of $125,000 from Chicago based Coleman Foundation.
This grant, however, was given with a clause; there should be an MBA student to collect the data on the productivity of the interns employed at the bakery.
According to Kroll, this training program aided the interns to learn “soft skills” that most people take for granted. However, it is these skills that enable teamwork and social interaction possible. Through this training program, the individuals with Autism could develop, what is normally called people skills, in an actual employment scenario. This will eventually help their future as they could gather an understanding about the nuances of a workplace and how communication and social integration is an essential part of it.
Their training included measuring baking ingredients, packaging and labeling shortbread cookies which are then sold under the ILOVESWEETS label. The proceedings from the sale goes to aid the program further.
The training program was aimed at challenging the participants with the unexpected changes that may occur in the workplace as well as convince the employers that hiring people with autism for varied roles can be a smart business plan.
To everyone’s great surprise, the data analysis showed that people with autism proved 80% more efficient in their work than a normal worker at a bakery. This is an important finding as small business owners are always looking for a skilled workforce and the right training could ensure that a steady employment for people with autism. This resulted in the Kroll offering job to the three individuals working as interns.
This is great news for everyone, as families with an autistic member mostly face the challenge of integrating them into the society. A job is a necessity for all, not only for survival but also for interaction and relieves the parents of great worry.
The news comes at the time when Temple Grandin, a professor of Animal Science and an autism advocate while speaking in Portland suggested strongly that children with Autism should learn “Working skills”. She said that one should stress on what autistic children ‘can achieve’, and that there is a lot more to pursue other than just academics. There are multiple possibilities in today’s world that can provide sustenance, job, interaction, and friendship to children and adults suffering from this disorder.
Kroll agrees that the process of integration was not easy and was definitely a big cultural change for the bakery and the employees. However, over a period of time, a sense of friendship have emerged and now they have ‘Friday team lunches’.
To learn about employment options for Autism, check out our Autism development tools for employment.