Man with autism starts dog treat business

I hear dogs love them.

David Shunkey of Albuquerque, New Mexico, makes Peanut Butter Puppy Bites, which are crisp canine treats shaped to resemble dog bones. Like any upstart business owner would, Shunkey has been getting his small business off the ground, looking for markets, and refining his recipe. The only difference is this businessman has autism.

A National Institutes of Health website defines autism as causing “severe and pervasive impairment in thinking, feeling, language, and the ability to relate to others.” Its severity ranges over a wide spectrum.

“David is nonverbal,” said Heather Gooch, who is program manager of supportive employment with Community Options in Albuquerque. She spoke for Shunkey with his permission. “He knows sign language and can understand more than he can sign. We also read his facial expressions and body language, and he uses different sounds to communicate. He has a speech language pathologist on his team and they have developed a communication dictionary to document his sound and hand movements. So if there is someone new working with him, they know how to communicate with him.”

Community Options has an on-site job coach helping Shunkey with marketing, baking, and selling. His dog treats are all natural, and include whole wheat flour, unbleached white flour, corn meal, rolled oats, eggs, safflower oil, vanilla, and peanut butter.

via Person with Autism Starts Business – Roseville California News including Rocklin & Placer County.

Young adults with Asperger’s syndrome struggle to find jobs

Her resume attracted plenty of attention.

Hospitals, technology companies and a major research organization indicated that Chelsea Ridenour – computer and math whiz, summa cum laude graduate of Capital University – looked good on paper. Some called for interviews.

And then, suddenly, it didn’t seem to matter that she is intelligent and dependable and tenacious. Ridenour can communicate with a computer in six languages, but she can’t chat her way through a face-to-face meeting with a stranger.

“People try to be nice. They’re not deliberately not nice,” the Hilliard resident said. “They just don’t understand.”

Ridenour is among a rising population of young adults whose coming-of-age stories are at best complicated and oftentimes heartbreaking. They are grown-ups with Asperger’s syndrome and other autism disorders, conditions that society seems to handle best when boys and girls are young and in school.

But Ridenour is 23. What she needs is a job.

via Young adults with Asperger’s syndrome struggle to find jobs | The Columbus Dispatch.

New website helps Pennsylvania families of autistic children

Autism Resources | Resources for Autism, Asperger Syndrome & PDD-NOS in Pennsylvania_1278940628805Parents of autistic children in Pennsylvania have a new resource  — — to find autism-friendly businesses. Adults on the spectrum, families living with autism, teachers and others can contribute. Listings include businesses willing to make reasonable accommodations to provide service or employ people autism. Here’s hoping this site grows and is copied by every state!

Families living with autism often find staying home hard enough. Going out for a meal, movie, dental appointment or eye exam while dealing with autism can feel like being in a nightmare, if businesses are unfriendly and insensitive to needs.

Nightmares, and outings gone bad, share themes of panic, embarrassment or public humiliation. In a nightmare, we try repeatedly to bolt, to cry out for help, and try as we might, we cannot solve the problem. If a child becomes upset in public during a pleasant outing, the wrong reaction from others can escalate the upset, and feel similarly upsetting to family members.

Being overwhelmed by extreme noise or lighting, being intimidated by a waiter’s stare, or having a church usher roll his eyes and loudly state “SOME parents have to learn to control their children” create all kinds of negative feelings. The fight-or-flight response sets in for parent, child, and siblings. Families often avoid everyday public activities and celebrations for years, not so much because of autism, but because of other’s hurtful reactions to a disability.

This letter from a parent was recently sent to the Erie Times News: “I joined a gym in Erie several months ago. They offer swim lessons for kids so I signed my children up. Today was the first day of their class. At the end of the half-hour the instructor looked at me and said: ‘This is not going to work for him,’ talking about my 5-year-old who has autism. She said, ‘I don’t have time for one-on-one with him, he needs to be in a class with children who have disabilities. I will refund your money.’”

Unfortunately, there is no way to refund the peace of mind and trust damaged by rejection and misunderstanding. But there is a way to avoid some of these problems.

Now families can know ahead of time that a movie theater, barber or diner truly understands their special needs at This is a new, free service helping Pennsylvanians find the nearest autism-friendly businesses.

via Local Columns – Luciana Randall: New website helps parents of autistic children.

Program could smooth a hard road to college for student with Down syndrome

A new program in Missouri is aimed at helping students with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities experience college and build skills that will take them from home to independence and employment.  It’s called THRIVE – for Transportation, Health, Responsibility, Independence, Vocation, Education. Read this Kansas City Star story about a possible participant in the THRIVE program.

Ask Mary Warm about her hope for her future, and she cocks her head. The bushy ponytail swings, the smile spreads across her face.

“I love kids, being around kids and hanging out with them, so I want to be a teacher,” said Warm, 18, a junior at Archbishop O’Hara High School in Kansas City.

For most teens Warm’s age, her goal is fairly easily reached with good grades in high school and four years of hard work in college. But for Warm, who has Down syndrome, a chromosomal disorder resulting in cognitive disabilities, it’s not as easy.

But the University of Central Missouri’s THRIVE program, which starts this fall, could well be a big step toward making it easier after she graduates from O’Hara.

via Program could smooth a hard road to college for student with Down syndrome –

Students With Autism Learn How To Succeed At Work

People with autism often have a hard time finding and keeping jobs, so more schools are creating programs to help students with autism get prepared for the workplace. One of those programs helped change the life of Kevin Sargeant.

Just a few years ago, when Kevin was still in elementary school, things weren’t looking good for him. He was antisocial, desperately unhappy and doing poorly in school.

“He was pretty much a broken child, the way I would describe it,” says his mother, Jennifer Sargeant. “We really didn’t see that he would be able to go to college, even have a job. That just wasn’t in our future for him.”

Kevin, now 18, says his autism left him unable to handle the social interactions at school.

via Students With Autism Learn How To Succeed At Work : NPR.

Helping autistic adults find their way in Ontario

Colin Baxter knows his autism makes finding work in film production an added challenge. But an adult autism centre opening today aims to help the 27-year-old and others like him achieve their goals.

The Autism Centre on Main Street East is an “out-of-the-box” way of assisting adults with autism according to Lisa Schumph, program manager for The Salvation Army Lawson Ministries which built and operates the centre.

The centre, which could serve up to 140 people, will fill a niche since autistic adults don’t have structured activities the way children do and can become more isolated from their community.

via – Local – Helping autistic adults find their way.

Autistic son sparks business plan for job-training

Several days before Keita Suzuki started classes at the Kellogg School of Management, his 3-year-old son was diagnosed with autism. Suzuki began poring through medical journals but found the most inspiring research in the Harvard Business Review.

Thorkil Sonne, a Danish entrepreneur who also has an autistic son, had succeeded at building a firm employing high-functioning autistic adults who perform repetitive software tests and data entry. Suzuki began writing a business plan.

“Because my son is such a nice, nice kid, I could not believe that people like him couldn’t get a job,” he said.

Relying on donations from classmates and professors and a personal loan, he deferred a job offer and upon graduation last year launched Kaien, a for-profit business modeled after Specialisterne, Sonne’s company.

In a phone interview from Tokyo, where he lives, Suzuki said he was optimistic but unsure the venture would succeed.

Due to restrictions on laying off Japanese workers, Suzuki, 32, has temporarily abandoned the idea of direct employment in favor of a training program, which places autistic adults at companies trying to meet national quotas. (Under Japanese law, 1.8 percent of employees at companies with 56 or more workers are supposed to be disabled, but loopholes have weakened the effort.)

via Matt Moog’s Viewpoints Network snags another client –

Adults with autism train for work with soup business in Phoenix

The Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center has started a job training program for adults with autism.

An eight-week pilot program is under way with help from Arizona Public Service.The students taking part in the program are part of the Entrepreneurial Center for Special Abilities.

They have a station set up in the building to sell soup to employees and the general public.

via Valley adults with autism get chance to open for business – Phoenix Arizona news, breaking news, local news, weather radar, traffic from ABC15 News |

Duquesne professor working to help autistic people work

A young man was cleaning an elevator at a local hotel recently when some guests entered the car.

“Say hi,” said a young woman standing near the man. She wasn’t being rude; she was just doing her job. The woman was a Duquesne University student who was assigned to mentor the young man, who had a high-functioning form of autism and was working at his first full-time employment.

via The Thinkers: Duquesne professor working to help autistic people work.

Program gives autistic students confidence to join work force – Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

This Pennsylvania program gives students with autism a taste of the work world before they turn 21. The unemployment rate for autistic adults is 80 percent, according to this story from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Shawn Curren hates when his hands are dirty.

When the students in his class at NHS Human Services Autism School in Whitney pass around cheese curls to eat, Curren, 16, of Greensburg immediately has to wash off the orange powder left on his fingers.

But when his boss at Adam and Eve Pet Station near Latrobe asks him to dig into a bag of hay and pull out handfuls to put in a rabbit cage, Curren obliges happily.

“Try to get it around the bowl here,” pet store owner David Shultz tells Curren as he scoops up one last handful. “That’s good!”

Curren’s foray into the working world is part of NHS Human Services’ transition program for autistic students who attend the organization’s schools in Herminie and Unity.

via Program gives autistic students confidence to join work force – Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.