Jacob Wittman, a 20-year-old with autism spectrum disorder, is making his dream of being a professional chef come true—all while finishing high school and employing other young adults on the spectrum.
His mother, Shelly Henley, helped him start a gluten- and dairy-free bakery less than two months ago. She’s amazed at how much their No Label at the Table has grown in just a few weeks. Currently selling at farmers markets and online only, the business partners plan to open a storefront in Carmel, Indian, later this year.
Henley also can’t believe the changes in her son’s usually ritualistic and rigid behavior. According to the Forbes article about the duo’s business, Henley used to struggle to get Wittman out of bed and now he’s already awake and working when she gets up around 7:30 a.m.
In addition, Wittman used to have to follow a morning script to avoid meltdowns, but one day he got started at the bakery without it and hasn’t needed it since. Henley says in the article that the biggest change to her son’s life is his expanded social network. He not only enjoys spending time with his nine friends and bakery co-workers—who are all on the spectrum—but he now talks to people in the community who recognize him from the markets.
“Meaningful work has given him a greater sense of self-worth,” Henley also says about her son’s transformation. As the business grows, they hope to give many more adults with autism the chance to feel that same pride in doing meaningful work.
Shelley D. Hutchins is content editor/producer for The ASHA Leader. firstname.lastname@example.org