Liz Curiel, a mother from the Northwest Side of Chicago, was frustrated by the lack of programs for children and young adults with autism in the Latino community. While attending a party for her son, Sebastian, and his friends who have autism, Curiel was inspired when many of the partygoers brought baked goods.
“And so, I was looking at this living room full of young men who brought baked goods instead of liquor to a party,” she said, according to a report this month by wgntv.com.
“And that’s when the idea was born.”
That idea was Unique Sweets, an organization that employs young adults with autism in catering cupcakes for a wedding or business gathering.
“The business model is baking and we’re using that to address a social issue,” Curiel said. “There are about 40, 50, 60% of young adults with autism and a college degree who are currently unemployed ... It’s an unseen disability. It’s very difficult for people to see their disability. As a mom, I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘I don’t see anything wrong with him.’”
Rather than full-time employment, Unique Sweets offers young adults with autism the opportunity to, in Curiel’s words, “practice the skills that they need so that they can go out and get to that place they want to be.”
The organization hopes to one day have its own physical space, providing social services such as counseling, job training, and more. In addition to Unique Sweets, Curiel (who will soon graduate with a master’s degree in non-profit management) has started a group for mothers of sons and daughters with autism called Latinas United in Love for Autism, or LULA.
Unique Sweets is also looking to expand its operations through commercial kitchen space and is planning Unique Sweets social this fall for young adults with autism. For Unique Sweets and its staff, the future is looking sweet indeed.