Editor's note: This is a grant and donor funded program. National Foundation for Autism Research only subsidized the start up costs. Include Autism still needs donors and grant funding to continue offering free of charge training.
With a name like Community Coaching Center, it's quite obvious the non-profit organization has the community's interest first. And the behavioral therapy center's new brand, Include Autism, is even more proof of their most recent mission: teaching local businesses how to be more comfortable including those with special needs.
Community Coaching Center, who describe themselves as a community-based, social behavior training program for kids and teens diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, has two locations: one in Rancho Penasquitos, located at 10125 Azuaga Street, and one in Hillcrest. They utilize a "variety of hands-on evidence-based practices and ABA (applied behavioral analysis) approaches to teach skill generalization and socialization in the community."
Johnny Grant, an inclusion specialist at the center, told Patch that the non-profit received a $7,500 grant in November from the National Foundation for Autism Research to help launch an autism inclusion community program that will benefit local businesses as well as the youth at the Coaching Community Center.
"The program will help a ton when businesses know what to expect and how to respond [to the kids]," Grant said.
Grant said Include Autism visits interested businesses and gives them an initial assessment: do they currently have customers or employees with special needs? Are there any alternative forms of communication?
"When we take the kids to a restaurant, we encourage them to order their own food to work on behavioral issues," Grant said. "Some kids respond well to visuals."
The center offers up various tips and information for local businesses, like how to recognize kids with special needs, safety tips, discretion, how to respond to them, how to engage and even how to hire them.
"We're delving into the employment aspect," Grant said. "A lot of people with autism have high skill sets for the workplace, they're just not understood."
The nine-year-old company is dedicated to giving kids with autism opportunity. The center takes kids on daily excursions outside the premises to help develop skills and work on behavioral issues, which means plenty of visits to local companies.
"We give businesses a heads up before we visit," Grant said, noting that many of the locations they've already given free training to are ones they frequent.
Grant told Patch that their training program, which will continually be offered free to businesses but could eventually turn into a paid, continual consulting program, is unique from others.
"We are one of the first ones to do this from a broad prospective," Grant said. "It's not only important in San Diego, it's important everywhere."
Grant said Include Autism will train any business willing to participate countywide, saying that the free 60-minute training benefits the biz.
"It opens up a client base to a different culture [the business] might not have been previously adapted to," Grant said. "If people know they can be comfortable in a setting, their families can go there more often."
The program will officially launch in 2013, with hopes, Grant said, of expanding nationwide. The Rancho Penasquitos location will merge with the Hillcrest center at the end of December, but Include Autism will continue its quest to enriching the lives of those with special needs and making the community more adaptable.
"It's something that is just touching the surface," Grant said. "But it has a big opportunity for the kids to take advantage of what the community has to offer."
Do you own a business that you'd like to benefit from the autism inclusion program? Contact Include Autism at 858-603-9835 and get the ball rolling on community coaching. Or give the gift of inclusion during the holidays for the non-profit and choose where your money goes to the program.