Children with Autism Create In-Center Restaurant at Hopebridge to Build Job Experience
June 06, 2018
June 06, 2018
In addition to effective communication and basic life skills, therapists at the Hopebridge South Bend location are building the entrepreneurial spirit in kids with autism. It’s here that therapy takes on a new look – as does the lunch room – all to help one learner bring his vision for a new restaurant to life each week.
The business grew out of the desire for a Hopebridge teen, Ryan, to experience hard work over time, with the ultimate goal of getting him workforce-ready. At the start, he lacked clear social skills, vocational skills and had a history of physical aggression towards himself and others. His therapy team focused on overcoming these challenges while also finding a way to achieve various job-related functions, such as stocking shelves, taking inventory and following written instructions.
After discussions to discover how Ryan would like to spend his time in the future, he and his therapist created the restaurant, Tiger Buffet, as an ode to his favorite animal. Before launching the business, Ryan “hired” a few peers, including Clara and Nick, and together they spent several weeks preparing for the grand opening. The Tiger Buffet team brainstormed what to cook, the cost of menu items, how to market the restaurant, the look of uniforms and more.
“With instant access to entertainment on our phones and TVs, many children – with or without autism – miss out on the chance to work on something that does not provide many rewards in the short-term,” said Registered Behavior Therapist (RBT) Patrick Klamm. “The Tiger Buffet gave us a chance to do just that, as well as provide the kids a natural environment in which to learn social and job skills.”
Tiger Buffet is open during lunchtime every Thursday, with many of the center’s kiddos gaining on-the-job experience while having fun. They assist in taking orders, crafting special meals, handling cash flow (with faux money, in this case), and clean-up. On days the restaurant is closed, Ryan handles inventory, supplies and any other chores needed to keep it up and running.
“My favorite task is making the pizza. I like when we get to eat the extra food, but mostly I like making the pizza,” said Tiger Buffet owner, Ryan. “The hardest part is to stand up all day.”
Hopebridge associates participate as well, offering visual aids and in-person prompts when needed. Therapists gradually allowed each of the learners more independence in their work at the restaurant. Overall, the kiddos take full ownership of the restaurant.
This project helped promote the specific social and vocational skills set out for Ryan at the beginning, but it has been a great resource for all participants. There has been a significant improvement in the ability to stay on their feet, handle stress, focus on the tasks at hand and follow directions. Above all, they’ve learned to successfully work together as a team.
“I like to do it because I get to spend time with my friends,” said Ryan. “I’ve learned to always work hard and always be nice. Always keep a smile on your face.”
This is just a taste of the personalized programs here at Hopebridge. Want to learn more about similar projects and therapy options at Hopebridge? Contact us for a tour near your home.
*Informed consent was obtained from the participants in this article. This information should not be captured and reused without express permission from Hopebridge, LLC.