Parents of individuals with developmental and/or physical disabilities have frequently assumed the role of advocate for educational opportunities and now find themselves seeking employment opportunities for their adult children. These parents have fought for services and supports outside of institutional settings to help promote independence. As many vocational programs have emerged to help support those with special needs, employment opportunities are still scarce. Parents have since taken the initiative, with only 17.9% of disabled persons being employed (as of 2020). These parents have created their own businesses on behalf of their adult children with special needs to provide means of employment. Below are a few unique businesses that are owned by special-needs families:
Two fathers, Brian Damiani and Michael Fitzgerald, were inspired to create employment opportunities for their sons with Autism after realizing the difficulties of obtaining employment post-graduation. Classic Rock hires only special-needs adults. They train their employees in auto-detailing, handwashing, and waxing cars – all while playing the best Classic Rock music.
For more information, go to: http://classicrockautodetail.com
John’s Crazy Socks
John’s Crazy Socks is a father-and-son enterprise. It was inspired by John Lee Cronin, a young adult diagnosed with Down Syndrome. John’s father had a desire to create an employment opportunity for John. What better way than to be inspired by John’s love for colorful, fun socks (“crazy socks”). To quote part of their mission statement: “We want to show what is possible when you give someone a chance.”
For more information, or to purchase crazy socks, visit their website: https://johnscrazysocks.com/
Bitty & Beau’s
Bitty and Beau’s was created by the Wright family. The Wright family has four children – including two daughters who are diagnosed with Down Syndrome. As advocates for inclusion, and out of a desire to create employment for their daughters, the Bitty & Beau’s coffee enterprise was created. Bitty and Beau’s have dedicated their lives to making the world a better place for their children and others living with disabilities. Products can be purchased in-store or online at one of their many locations (AL, DC, FL, GA, MD, MS, MI, NC, PA, SC, TX).
For more information, or to purchase online, visit: https://www.bittyandbeauscoffee.com
ScentsAbility was founded by two mothers, both of whose daughters have been diagnosed with intellectual/developmental disabilities. ScentsAbility sells hand-made candles, which can be purchased online. Since 2013, this enterprise has transitioned to a non-profit organization with a mission to advance teaching and training opportunities for those with disabilities.
For more information, or to support their mission, visit: https://www.scentsability.org
All-Natural Soy Candles
A group of special-needs parents and advocates joined together to create All-Natural Soy Candles. The aim of the company was to utilize the skills of various sons and daughters with special needs. All products are sourced from local USA suppliers, using natural ingredients to create their soaps and candles. Even the packaging is said to be recyclable, reusable, and free of plastic. The products are sold online.
For more information, visit: https://www.community-naturals.com
Special Sparkle is a mother-and-daughter team that creates hand-made jewelry. Karen (mother) took into consideration her daughter’s (Kelly’s) unique skills and love for jewelry when creating the business. Both Karen and Kelly are speakers who spread encouragement to: “see all people with disabilities for what they can do, rather than what they cannot do.”
To shop lovely jewelry, visit their website: https://specialsparkle.com
The efforts of these remarkable parents have resulted in unique employment opportunities, business adventures, and sustainable, beautiful products. Each purchase helps to support employment opportunities for adults and families with special needs. Please continue to support their efforts through inclusion, positive speaking, and of course - product purchases.