When we adopted our children with Down syndrome, our desire was to provide them with a family and a home. Our dream for them was for them to have happy and fulfilling lives, however that looked for each of them individually. As our oldest kids with Down syndrome became teenagers, we started looking ahead to life after high school. We quickly realized that despite all of our efforts to help our children grown into their independence, there just simply was not a lot of opportunities in our area for them to do anything meaningful outside of our home once they graduated from high school. In the fall of 2019, I attended a vocational education event that included other parents from the area and representatives from the AL State Dept of Education. I listened to every parent in the room echo my concerns: There is a lack of opportunity in our area for young adults with intellectual disabilities once they graduate from high school. One of the employees from the Dept of Education then made a comment that stuck with me: "If you want your kids to have an opportunity, you need to create it." The seed was planted. Creating the opportunity became a family effort. The next year included establishing a LLC, having our teenage children take vocational assessments to determine what THEY wanted to do as jobs, working with their teachers to ensure they were learning skills at school to foster independence and develop job skills, researching what was actually possible to establish as a business in our area AND ensure it was something that our children could actually do. We didn't want to create a business where we were working and they were just the "poster child". We want THEM to be able to do the majority of the work related to operating whatever business we ended up creating. We went through quite a few ideas and hit roadblocks along the way. It took over a year of researching laws, looking at possible sustainable business options, continuing to develop our children's interests in order to ensure the business would be something that they'd enjoy doing, and then doing small projects to raise the funds to fully launch a business. In February of 2021, the seed that was planted in the fall of 2019 began to grow.
This blog will focus on the "behind the scenes" of our business: how our children are learning job skills, how we're partnering with the school and other organizations for vocational training, how we're providing training opportunities for other teenagers and young adults, the modifications we have to make from a traditional business model to ensure our business is set up for individuals with intellectual disabilities to be successful and everything we're learning along the way.