ReEmployAbility supports Not-for-Profits around the country by providing volunteers through our Transiton2Work® Program, and helping injured workers heal through meaningful work. With April being Autism Awareness Month, ReEmployAbility could not pass up the opportunity to spotlight a very valued nonprofit partner, and local organization, the Autism Awareness Shop. The Autism Awareness Shop has participated in the Transition2Work® Return-to-Work program for a few years, and all the work each volunteer, participant, and staff member put into helping better the lives of the Autistic community here in Tampa has not gone unrecognized.

To show their support for the nonprofits mission, members of the ReEmployAbility Service Team scheduled some time with the Autism Awareness Shop to work as volunteers through our company-sponsored volunteer program, REA in the Community. ReEmployAbility’s Transition2Work Program Coordinator, Lindsey expressing appreciation for the organization and staff members, stated, “Autism Awareness Shop is so much more than a thrift store. While we were there, a former injured worker who was placed through our Tranition2Work program, gave us a tour of the facility. There was an adjoining room that displayed pieces of art created by individuals with varying levels of autism. Our tour guide showed us a classroom where students meet weekly to create art, to learn how to budget with the money earned from selling their artwork, and where they assist with sorting, tagging, and pricing items that will be put out on the sales floor. The staff we met were so kind and so clearly passionate about the work they do. Our tour guide told us that this place was ‘like a second home,’ and though she has a full-time job now, she still volunteers weekly with her teenage daughter so that she can stay connected to the students, the staff, and the cause they support.”

ReEmployAbility Service Team Members (left to right) Carlos, Bryan, Lindsey, and Erin

The Autism Awareness Shop largely focuses on wellness and development of those who fall on the autism spectrum. Their goal is “to increase the independence and improve the overall quality of life for individuals on the autism spectrum through life skills and vocational training.” By catering to each person’s needs, the Autism Awareness Shop is able to customize detailed therapies or training to provide purpose and encourage development while bringing awareness to communities.

How They Help: Programs and Services

ABA Training: With a team of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapists, the Autism Awareness Shop provides intensive therapy that targets principles and techniques of learning theory to help improve social behavior.

Adult Day Training: This program offers creative structured activities, social interaction and skill-building opportunities that enrich the lives of adults with autism who go through the program. The program offers opportunities to explore new areas of interest or to expand on current ones. An individualized program is customized to each participant, focusing on personal goals. Some activities include, computer training, cooking, self-advocacy, and more.

Occupational Therapy: Using a developmental approach, the Occupational Therapy team evaluates each individual as they progress, improve, and move towards their goals throughout their life. By identifying deficiencies, but focusing on strengths, the team is able to remediate, and accommodate for any found flaws.

Speech Language Therapy: Tailored to each person’s needs, the Speech Language Therapists create a treatment plan for those who suffer from speaking, language, and/or swallowing problems. Such therapies help with improving on the voice by teaching one how to use the correct muscles to make the right sounds.

Transportation: The Autism Awareness Shop offers transportation services to individuals within Hillsborough County. Transportation can be one way, or a round trip to-and-from the individual’s home to the Autism Awareness Shop location.

Vocational Rehabilitation: Assisting their clients in finding employment opportunities within the community, the Vocational Rehabilitation program identifies each person’s strengths and the value they bring to the workplace. Everyone who participates in this program will be exposed to opportunities within their retail store, online stores, and their horticulture program (coming soon!) The organization tries their best to find the right “fit” based off these strengths so that everyone has a chance to learn and succeed.

The Autism Awareness Shop Store Manager and Autism Liaison and Employment Specialist Tyler Russo, was interviewed to get an update on their organization and how ReEmployAbility’s Transition2Work® program provides value to the nonprofit. This is what he has to say:

In your own words, briefly describe your organization’s goals for the community you serve.

The goals for our organization are to provide life skill development and vocational training services to adults who have aged out of the school system and need extra support.

Describe a recent accomplishment your organization achieved.

Recently, we celebrated one year of our programs being up and running that provide low-cost services to families in need through MedWaiver, Gardiner, and private pay options, with the ability to accept other insurances coming soon.

How has your organization benefitted from its involvement with our Transition2Work program?

Our program has benefitted immensely from the Transition2Work through extended help in our donation processing area, where all funds from donations sold are out right back into our adult day training and therapy programs.

We love our Tranisiton2Work participants and could not do what do without the help of these generous, hardworking, and loving individuals that come through the program.

In your opinion, how does the injured worker benefit from participating in the Transition2Work program?

The injured worker benefits from being in an environment that is welcoming, loving and understanding. The workers also benefit in the sense they are integrated more into the autism community and are given a deeper and firsthand experience into the world of autism. 

Please share if you have any comments about exemplary volunteers in this program.

Some exemplary volunteers (mostly all) we have had in the program have shown such a love and deeper understanding, building, and creating relationships with the adults on the autism spectrum despite that not being a part of their job duties. We would like to give a huge shout out to Karen D. and Wendy G. (who have moved on) who have shown their dedication and love for our mission in their work ethic and how they interact with our employees and participants.

Click to learn more about how to be involved with the Autism Awareness Shop as a client, participant, or volunteer.