Bakery gives people on autism spectrum job training

American Hero

(NewsNation) — A Brooklyn, New York, bakery is helping people with autism get job training and social connections.

Invictus Bakery, a nonprofit organization, was founded by Molly Sebastian and Alison Berkley in 2017. Berkley’s an autism expert with more than 19 years of experience in the special education field, while Sebastian has a background in business and a daughter who is autistic.

They noticed that while there were a lot of resources for people with autism while in school, there were fewer once they graduated.

“It was something that we felt really passionate about, what happens after they graduate,” Berkley said. “They call it falling off the cliff because there’s just no opportunity for them to learn what it’s like to be in a work environment and to really put their skills to the test.”

So both women combined their expertise to open a bakery, where people with autism could gain these job skills with introductory cooking classes, cake school and a business entrepreneurship class.

“The culinary industry appealed to us for a million reasons,” Berkley said.

The precision and repetition baking entails lends itself to the learning styles and cognitive skills of the bakers, Berkley said.

“They will stun you with what they can do in the bakery,” she said.

Bakers at Incivtus make cakes, cupcakes and even all-natural dog biscuits. One of the bakers even designs the labels and makes artwork for the dog biscuits packaging as well.

Sebastian has seen what having an opportunity like this can do firsthand. Her daughter is 13 years old, and a minimal speaker.

“She has also grown with the program over the five years and again, even though she can’t have a back-and-forth conversation,” Sebastian said.

A lot of the bakers Sebastian and Berkley work with don’t get many chances to work, even though the women say they’re all “super talented.” So they started a new program, called “Hire Me,” an initiative to get their bakers trained and paid.

“They deserve to be part of the workforce,” she said.

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