“Retail 101,” a Linwood Center program, prepares our young adults with the marketable skills they will need for future employment in a real world employment environment. We have developed a curriculum that begins by teaching beginning skills as basic as dressing appropriately for work and tending to personal hygiene in the morning and throughout the day. For those who are more able, we teach them how to greet customers with a smile and direct them to the different areas of the store. Some will learn how to work with money and even work the cash register.
The most remarkable accomplishments we have seen among our program participants have as much to do with building self esteem as it does with learning new skills. During the first few weeks of our “soft” opening, when we were up to our eyeballs setting up the store, Timmy came to work at his usual time with his job coach. He was decked out in his best clothes, shoes shining and prepared to greet customers. Timmy was greeted as usual by Dan, our store manager, who was dressed down, prepared for a long day of lifting and moving. Timmy was disappointed. It seems that the day before, Dan had a meeting with all of the employees, telling them that we would be beginning our new dress code the following Monday. Timmy got all of that, except for the part about “the following Monday.” When our program participants work the front of the store, they wear a name tag that reads beneath their name, Sales Associate. Timmy is a Sales Associate and he was prepared to act and dress accordingly, just like Dan taught him. Pride is the remarkable accomplishment that transcends our entire process at Linwood.
There is work at the Boutique for all of our program participants, even those who may not be interested in or suited to be a Sales Associate. Our people receive support from their job coaches who have received specific training in working with people affected by autism. Our program participants also receive natural supports from their nondisabled peers, employees at the store who work alongside them. There is work for individuals at every skill level; work such as receiving donated goods, sorting, items, hanging and steam cleaning clothing, bagging textiles that will be shipped off to salvage companies, cleaning glass, dusting and waxing furniture, loading and unloading our trucks, and engaging in custodial work to prepare the store for opening each day. Learn more about Linwood Center Boutique.