Yes, You Can Swim with the Big Fish!

By: Tirthna Badhiwala – 11/01/2017

“Really? Small business is an option for someone who has an intellectual developmental disability?”

We like to believe that there are 5 stages to gaining employment as an individual with autism/IDD: validation, exploration, creation, realization, and sharing. The first stage, validation, turned out to be The Power of the Dream’s theme for October.

Each year, the Brooks Avenue Church of Christ’s Special Needs Ministry hosts A Day to Connect, a resource fair for individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities. This year, the October 14th fair’s theme was transitioning to adulthood. In addition to an information table for The Power of the Dream, the Special Needs Ministry was also happy to host our PowerUP Market so attendees could shop early for holiday gifts from our micro-entrepreneurs, all of whom have autism and/or IDD. But this arrangement turned out to have an added bonus — allowing people to see the dreams we tell them to believe in.

“Really? Small business is an option?” is an all too common question the Dream Team gets when doing community outreach, and it’s quite an understandable one. Due to societal stigma and systemic barriers in employment, families and individuals with autism/IDD are usually unaware of customized self-employment as an option.

As much as we love talking through our PowerUP Micro-Enterprise program to help families gain knowledge and confidence, it was also fun to respond to this question by simply saying “Of course! Look right behind you, all of those entrepreneurs have autism and/or IDD!”  The validation and excitement attendees got from directly seeing our micro-entrepreneurs in action was incomparable. Sometimes, seeing is the best way to start believing in the power of the dream.

Validation also needs to be revitalized throughout all the stages of gaining employment. After all, micro-enterprise and navigating the business world isn’t easy! This is one of the main reasons why we like to host workshops. Our October 28th workshop was on developing and perfecting business pitches.

Delivering a pitch is a daunting task for any businessperson, but we wanted to get our micro-entrepreneurs to validate that they could indeed swim with the big fish! That’s also why I was dressed as a shark (get it? pitches? Shark Tank?). Anna dressed as a water/moat fairy, representing the moat of resources that protect the micro-enterprise’s economic castle (no, we really don’t dream small here).

It’s important to remember that validation is a resource gained from advocacy. We love the work we do to let people know that self-employment through micro-enterprise is an option, and you can help! It’s as easy as letting your friends and family with autism/IDD know that they are valued, and letting them know about The Power of the Dream’s mission and programs! Head to our website to learn more. To keep up with our upcoming events, follow us on Facebook or contact us at info@thepowerofthedream.org.