Puzzles Bakery and Café

www.puzzlesbakerycafe.com

www.puzzlesbakerycafe.com

There are so many efforts underway for autism awareness and it’s amazing to see how much those efforts have opened doors for– and many people’s eyes to – the autism community. However, one area that doesn’t often get as much attention, but truly needs to, is the support of adults with autism. There are a lot of people that still think autism is a ‘childhood disorder’ that people tend to ‘grow out of.’ But as we know, there is a large, and growing, amount of underserved adults with autism – many who had services and support throughout their entire life until adulthood, when those services were no longer accessible.

So, what can be done? One big step in the right direction is how some companies are creating jobs for those touched by autism and/or providing training to develop the skills people need for employment. One small cupcake shop making a big impact is Puzzles Bakery and Café based in Schenectady, NY. Half of the staff at this café has autism. The owner, Sara Mae Hickey, who has a sister on the spectrum, saw a need in the community for employment opportunities for young adults with autism and said, “A lot of us are exposed in our everyday lives, but it’s really great to put a face on that and to know that the person bringing you lunch may or many not have special needs and that’s just normal.”

The café offers pet therapy and other programs for those it can’t employ. Since Puzzles opened, they have received 600 applications, but the café can only employ 25.  (check out more in this article).  That just goes to show that a tremendous need exists, and places like Puzzles, while a start, can’t do it alone. It’s our hope that others follow in their footsteps so that we can continue to support all people touched by autism throughout their life.

Lynsey, Community Manager 

Microsoft’s New Employee Program

MicrosoftMicrosoft recently announced it is starting a pilot program – working alongside specialized employment agency, Specialisterne – that is focused on hiring people with autism. The company hopes to utilize and nurture the unique skills that some on the autism spectrum possess that are particularly aligned with positions at Microsoft.

Mary Ellen Smith, corporate VP of worldwide operations who has a teen son on the spectrum, said, “People with autism bring strengths that we need at Microsoft, each individual is different, some have amazing ability to retain information, think at a level of detail and depth or excel in math or code.”

Microsoft is not alone—other companies are also recognizing specialized talents and creating opportunities for people with autism, such as SAP and Freddie Mac. These efforts are extremely important considering only a very small percentage of those on the spectrum are employed – leaving the vast majority unemployed. And the unemployment rate will continue to rise as autism rates increase.

So Microsoft is taking a step in the right direction, and we hope more companies will follow suit.

Read more of Ms. Smith’s post on Microsoft’s blog.

Lynsey, Community Manager