POLAND, Ohio (WYTV) – Adults with autism can live productive lives in the community and one local agency is helping them do that.
April is Autism Awareness Month, so you’re going to see a lot of blue — from lights to cookies and everything in between.
Sesame Street is even debuting a muppet with autism next week named Julia. Her character is just like the rest of the gang. The goal is to show and create a better understanding of autism.
One in 68 children has an autism spectrum disorder. Autism is one of the fastest-growing developmental disorders in the U.S., according to Autism Speaks.
“Quite frankly, you’ve met one person with autism,” said Melanie Carfolo, with the Rich Center for Autism. “All of the 70 children we have are so very different. Some things that bother or trigger certain students don’t bother or trigger other students.”
It’s usually identified when a child is young, but there are some adults who find out they are living with autism later in life.
“There is no off switch. It’s not like, ‘Oh, I’m an adult now, I don’t have autism anymore,'” Carfolo said.
She said identifying that someone is on the autism spectrum helps them with the next step.
“It helps them kind of unlock the keys to who they are and know that there’s a reason behind maybe their sensitivity to sounds, or the lack of eye contact that they give, or being accused of not paying attention,” Carfolo said.
No Limits Alternative Center works with adults on the spectrum.
At the agency’s Crumbles Bakery in Poland, they’re serving up treats like cinnamon and blueberry muffins.
“They learn how to decorate cookies, package them,” Betsy Zarbaugh said.
She said the bakery helps them come together as a team.
“It’s very important for our individuals to feel productive. To feel like they are part of this campus, to feel like they are part of the team, to earn a paycheck.”
Some adults work in the hot foods program while others work in the community.
“We have a job coach named Jen who takes five individuals every day to T.J. Maxx in Boardman and we work hand-in-hand and side-by-side with the T.J. Maxx employees, mostly in the stock room,” Zarbaugh said.
No Limits students also have the opportunity to graduate and work at other retail stores.