Statistics reveal a growing number of Americans aging out of Adult Transition Programs in local school districts creating an avalanche of ill-prepared individuals seeking suitable “post-school district” programs or opportunities. Some statistics show that 90% of adults on the autism spectrum are unemployed which is an astounding figure. Many schools are unsure how to properly train individuals for various job opportunities and some families fail to focus on pre-vocational job training and functional living skills while concentrating purely on academic skills. To counter this epidemic of unemployed individuals, many families and organizations are turning to sustainable micro-business ventures to enable these individuals to be positive contributors to the community by finding an approach to employment that works for them.
A micro-business is an enterprise that operates on a very small scale and may even include only one person (and possibly a job shadow). These opportunities can be very beneficial for some individuals with special needs and especially some on the autism spectrum. Individuals with autism sometimes prefer to navigate outside of “typical society” as not to worry about social rules or interaction. They can choose to limit this interaction while still being a productive contributor to their community. “Atypical” behaviors might not be acceptable or appreciated in a typical workplace, however, in a micro-business; they might not matter at all. Individuals might enjoy being their own boss, choosing their work hours and thriving on independence. Whatever the reason, creating micro-business opportunities for individuals with isms is on the rise. I am not discounting the importance of the availability of typical employment opportunities, but having or creating micro-businesses might be a practical and positive alternative for many.
Following are some relatively easy ideas for micro-businesses. Keep in mind that many of these jobs might be performed independently, but some individuals might be helped with a job shadow or coach. Some could be performed from the comfort of home and some require venturing to a job site.
Shredding Documents – Keeping private documents from becoming public is an important service provided via a shredding service. An individual could either travel to an office to do their daily/weekly shredding onsite or pick up a bin of papers to be shredded offsite. This service is in high demand and could be financially rewarding.
Trash Can Service – Do you have an adult child who could create a flyer and sell the service of taking out and bringing in all the neighbors’ trash cans on the appropriate day of the week? This is a relatively quick and easy service that can be provided weekly as a job/service. I don’t know about you, but I’d pay $10 per week for this service. Multiply that by how many houses are on your block and this could really be a lucrative business for some. Plus, it might trigger some additional job opportunities.
Dog Walking – Many families work long hours and would be happy to pay a reliable person to entertain or walk their pets once or twice daily while they are at work. This also could be part of a pet sitting business.
Non-Profit Opportunities – Many non-profits (including churches) operate on a tight budget, but are willing to part with some funds to have some much-needed ongoing services handled. My students work weekly at my local church. They fill emergency lunch bags for the needy in the community. They alphabetize the church member name tag board. They have filled the soda machine. And, lastly, after a free “Clothes Closet” outreach, they bag up the extra clothing and drop it off at Goodwill. They receive cash as well as a stipend at the end of the year.
Thirsty Thursdays – is there a local business with a soda machine that the individual could be hired to fill weekly? Or if they don’t have a soda machine, could you get a deal on one on Craigslist for a local business and provide a soda machine service? Our school got one for free on Craigslist once they found out why we were using it. We had to pick it up, but the machine was free. This enables the individual to manage the machine weekly by going in to check inventory, creating a list (visual if necessary), shopping for soda, filling the machine and occasionally turn the change in for cash. This job could also entail hunting the local grocery ads for the best soda deal and only buying when on sale. Combine this job with a recycling bin and more profits can be earned. A similar job could be running a snack vending machine.
Frappuccino Fridays – contact a local small business or school and offer coffee service for the office. This could simply be you having a Keurig-type single serve coffee maker (each cup made to order) or having a bigger coffee maker and offering specialty condiments. Or, if the individual is able to do a Starbucks’ run, they can take the order, pick up and deliver for a fee. Many people are willing to pay a service fee to have their favorite custom cup of coffee delivered to ease their stressful day.
Greenhouse Project – Many people are very into fresh food and if you have a green thumb, perhaps farming and marketing out of your own garden products could be a “fruitful” venture.
Successful micro-business ventures are popping up all over the United States. Here is a list of some of the successful ventures:
- Car Wash
- Cleaning Services
- Coffee Bean Sales
- Flower Delivery
- Gourmet Kettle Korn
- Laundry Service
I have had students move away from our school district only to find where they relocate offers little or no pre-vocational training. Many have been forced into creating these opportunities for their own family members. With an open mind and some creative ideas, you can generate some fun opportunities.