I have been working with children with autism for 20 years and am currently the principal at a nonpublic special education school in Maryland, which is a school for children with special needs. As the principal, I directly oversee the autism program which has students between the ages of 5-21. While the various special needs school programs are incredible, I have witnessed time and again the difficulties my students face after aging out of the school system. They are wonderful people who I know could and would be valuable contributors to society if given the opportunity, but the lack of vocational training is limiting opportunities and preventing them from realizing their potential.
Through Independent Grounds, I hope to address this need by providing vocational training in a nurturing and tolerant environment (similar to what I’ve been able to create in my school). My ultimate goal is to help people with special needs obtain the support and training they need to lead successful and fulfilling lives after aging out of the school system. I also hope we will raise public awareness of these challenges and help overcoming stigmas associated with people with special needs.”
Independent Grounds’ website says:
“Independent Grounds Coffee House will enroll students in a program that provides a structured training curriculum. This program will cater towards the vocational and social skills required for finding and keeping long-term employment. Independent Grounds will be a fully functioning coffee shop, and is created specifically to be a vocational work-study program for adolescents with developmental disabilities living in Washington, DC and the surrounding areas. Students will have an opportunity to come in for 2-hour work shifts several days a week as a part of their high school vocational training. Work training programs will be developed based on the needs of each student.”
If you’d like to learn more and/or get involved you can do so here. Updates when they find a space.