Understanding the Puzzle of Autism and Adulthood
1 in 68 people in the United States are affected by autism. This means that more individuals are diagnosed with autism every year than with AIDS, diabetes, and cancer combined. Autism is a lifelong disability, and the disorder becomes especially challenging as individuals on the autism spectrum transition into adulthood: group homes and daytime programs are filled to capacity, college is rarely an option, and employment opportunities are extremely uncommon. Considering the agonizingly low employment rate for people with developmental disabilities, creative employment solutions are necessary to meet the needs of the aging autistic population.
Autism Awareness is often conveyed with brightly-colored puzzle pieces, as seen in the popular Autism Awareness Ribbon. The puzzle pattern reflects the mystery and complexity of the autism spectrum: No one knows what causes the disorder, and there is no “cure” for autism. The unique colors and shapes represent the diversity of the people living with the condition and the people in their lives that help them—direct care workers, teachers, parents, and siblings. The brightness of the ribbon signals hope—hope that through increased awareness of autism, and through early intervention and appropriate services and opportunities, people with autism will lead fuller, more complete lives.
The Mission of Puzzles Bakery & Café
Puzzles Bakery & Café is committed to improving the livelihood of individuals, families, and communities affected by autism spectrum disorders. Individuals with developmental disabilities have the right to work in integrated settings with non-disabled colleagues, be afforded the same wages, and contribute to society in a meaningful way. Puzzles Bakery & Café will provide adults with disabilities opportunities for personal growth, as well as a source of income, social interaction, and a sense of purpose.
Our Recipe for Success
At Puzzles Bakery & Café, our approach is two-fold: we seek to welcome and include individuals and families affected by special needs into the community, and in turn, hope to nurture compassion and understanding by exposing our community to individuals with disabilities. Piece by piece, we seek to make the world a better place for all, regardless of ability or disability. Rather than a strict nonprofit or for-profit approach, Puzzles Bakery & Café is a hybrid organization: a social enterprise. Unlike a nonprofit organization, Puzzles is a sustainable business. Our operations do not rely solely on charitable donations, but rather, generate revenue through the sale of delicious food and beverages. At Puzzles Bakery & Café, we harness the power of business to achieve social good.
From the beginning, it has been our intention to open many more locations in order to provide creative employment solutions for as many developmentally disabled adults as possible. Puzzles Bakery & Café has a strong brand identity, a fantastic menu, and a solid business plan. We intend to build a replicable and sustainable Puzzles Bakery & Café pilot at our first location in Schenectady, then launch additional locations with profits generated from the first shop. In addition to bringing Puzzles to other communities throughout the United States, we wish to serve as a model for other for-profit businesses to employ individuals with special needs.