Recently, I have read about micro businesses and how they can positively impact those with autism. A micro business is a very small business – typically a one-person enterprise. These kinds of opportunities can be beneficial for individuals with autism spectrum for many reasons. 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 and still be a productive contributor. Another reason that a micro-business might work well for someone on the spectrum is that “atypical” behaviors might not be acceptable in a typical workplace. Individuals might enjoy being their own boss, choosing their working hours and thriving on their independence. Whatever the reason, creating micro-business opportunities for individuals on the spectrum is on the rise. I am not discounting the importance of providing typical employment opportunities for people with ASD, but having micro businesses as an option might be a practical and positive alternative.
Job Training Challenge Working as an Independence Facilitator in an adult transition class for the past 6 years, I am constantly seeking opportunities for my students. Currently, we have students shredding papers at our district office and several students working at a local church preparing emergency lunch bags for the needy. Students work in the cafeteria of our local hospital preparing lunch trays while other students work at a café preparing lunch bags for customers. It is a challenge to provide ongoing job training opportunities for our students as I work with students who are diagnosed in the more severe range with behaviors that are not generally “accepted” in a standard workplace. Frankly, most of our students will not hold jobs in the community once they graduate and many will likely “graduate to” a regional day program.
Micro Business Examples
As I keep seeing successes with people with ASD in relation to a micro business, I thought it would be worthwhile to share some of these successes and perhaps get some of you thinking about micro businesses in relation to yourself or your child with autism. Here are some examples of some recent successful micro businesses. In Kansas, a young man (who has autism, Down Syndrome and is non verbal) started a business selling kettle corn to local outlets and street fairs. One man started a mobile paper shredding business with the initial assistance of a job coach from his regional center. One school created a dog treat bakery on campus where students create the product and sell it to school families. The ideas are endless. It’s a matter of matching an individual’s interests and abilities to a product or service that is in demand.
Moving into the Future
Regional centers and private organizations are beginning to focus on this area, because many of the unique characteristics of those with ASD lend themselves to entrepreneurial endeavors. We should start tapping strengths and interests by trying to connect those to future potential job opportunities. Consider ways that your child might use his/her strengths or passions in a way to increase independence.