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Carmel food company provides opportunities to people on the autistic spectrum

Posted at 8:00 AM, Apr 12, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-12 08:00:43-04

CARMEL — Providing opportunities for people with autism, on every side of the spectrum.

That's the goal of a Carmel food company fully staffed by people with autism.

Inside executive chef Jacob Wittman's kitchen the team is busy at work.

They're prepping the desserts, and food for the day.

This kitchen isn't just recognized for being gluten and dairy free, all of the employees have autism.

"See the person not the disability," one of the employees Hannah said.

Hannah has been working for No Label at the Table for years and says she's learned so much since working here.

Not only has it given her a chance to learn to bake, she has also learned life skills.

It's the very reason Shelly Henley founded the business.

Her son Jacob was turning 18, aging out of services and transitioning to adulthood.

"Every parent wants their kid to live a happy and fulfilled life and I didn't want anything less," Shelly Henley said.

She didn't want him to sit at a home and collect disability.

So when he said he wanted to be a chef it was an easy decision.

"My baby wanted to be a chef, he was going to be a chef," Henley said.

What started as a small booth at the local farmers market 8-years-ago has quickly taken off.

They want to provide dignity and purpose to people on all ends of the autistic spectrum.

"My son was constantly being evaluated and told oh well he speaks on this percentile. Developmentally he is only this percentile, and lah dah dah dah dah," Henley said.

Hence where the name No Label on the Table was born.

The artwork on the sign created by Jacob, an old symbol they used for eating. Due to his autism he struggles to express his emotions verbally.

For employees like Hannah's its provided a stable income to pay for bills like rent and hopefully she'll get to buy a cat soon.

"Bringing home the bacon," Hannah said.

Henley hopes other businesses will take a page out of her recipe book and add the secret ingredient of employing people on the spectrum.

"Throw out all of your assumptions. Quit assuming that you're doing something nice or charitable. All you're doing is hiring another person who might need a few more accommodations, but those accommodations are going to benefit everybody in the work space," Henley said.

The food company says they will be partnering with much larger companies sometime this year, and will share soon.

The CDC's latest numbers show 1 in 36 8-year-old children were identified with autism in 2020.

In Indiana Autism numbers continue to rise.

Golden steps ABA say currently 1 in 44 kids are identified with autism in the state. That's an increase from previous years.

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