Creating Opportunities For The Neurodiverse

When he was just 5 years-old, Doctors told Anthony Ianni's parents that he wouldn't be successful in life because of his Autism. Hearing this from a medical professional would have a devastating effect on parents and be extremely discouraging for children.

Coach Ianni at the non-profit camp, Kids On The Go, near Detroit, Michigan.

Thankfully, times are changing and there is an increasing awareness of the issue that is going hand-in-hand with an economic shift to help special needs and intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) individuals secure a full-time position in the workforce is quickly spreading nationwide.

And the benefits of an inclusive work environment don't just improve the state of life of the individual employed but has proven to enlighten and motivate those around them. For instance, former Special Needs Educator Tiffany Exter, one of the many trailblazers to this important movement, noticed a void in meaningful job opportunities and careers for those with special needs. She felt moved to open Pizzability/Brewability in Denver Colorado where she employs IDD individuals as well as others without special needs. Her understanding of the situation had her make sure that her restaurant Pizzability would include a sensory corner for employees or guests who may want to use it between bites. Although not the goal, teaching respect and patience is an ancillary benefit that comes from an inclusive workplace such as this one.

A Special Place for a Slice and a Beer

Click here to learn more about Pizzability/Brewability

An author, Daryl Reed once said: "Compassion without action is just observation". Surely Tiffany is one such individual whose actions speak loudly. Another is the owner of Rising Tide Car Wash, John D'eri who has another success story of compassion. John's youngest son Andrew is autistic and when he noticed that Andrew's future would be dim unless he did something, Rising Tide Car Wash was born. This wonderful family-owned business gives young adults with autism a chance to thrive with a combination of what John's eldest son Tom explains as "process-driven tasks" and "detail orientation".

Florida Car Wash Employs Autistic Adults

Click here to learn more about Rising Tide Car Wash

Michael Coyne, a young man with ADHD and Autism, featured in a CBS news article couldn't find a job after submitting multiple applications and decided to open his own "beacon of hope" coffee shop, the Red, White and Brew Coffee in North Smithfield, Rhode Island, that employs special needs individuals. By doing so, he made sure that his future was secure along with others like him. Parents are overjoyed to see their children work and have fulfilling lives instead of the less dignified and productive alternatives like sending them to adult daycare facilities or having them stay home.

Michael with his mother sitting in their cafe.

One would think job training or even a 4-year college degree would assist IDD individuals to at least get their foot in the workforce door. That is not the case. Even when an individual on the spectrum graduates from college their chance of employment is low and that's if there are opportunities in or near their location that caters to their abilities.

Byran Dai, who has a brother on the spectrum, along with highschool friend Raul Mahinda founded a startup: Divergent, after coming to the same realization as Tiffany Exter. Divergent, as reported in the New York Times 'Using Technology to Close the Autism Job Gap', has become a lead Artificial Intelligence startup to hire neurodiverse and neurotypical candidates. By working with colleges to provide internships and hiring outright, Divergent has hired 75 people with IDD to date, not letting the hard work and dedication to gaining an education go to waste. Divergent offers positions in which IDD individuals "can focus on detail-oriented, complex, repetitive kinds of work". To further accommodate their employees, Divergent also provides a sensory break room for staff that may help with settling thoughts and de-stressing from feelings that might overwhelm, which a typical workspace often presents.

Divergent's owners Byran and Raul.

All of these examples are positive steps in providing special needs, neurodiverse and neurotypical individuals a job and a chance for a productive life. Hopefully, many more companies will open their doors and offer employment opportunities to this unique community of adults. However, it takes a unique company with a heart open to these employee prospects. Mr. Campbell, Divergent's first hire makes a good point about the types of businesses that will have the best chance to succeed with IDD employees, "I want an employer to see me as a person. Don't hire because you want to look better for your investors."

Tim Tebow's Night To Shine

** OGTV is celebrating National DJ Month with this story about an aspiring young DJ who took to the dance floor to make a his first high school prom a "night to shine". **

A Night to Shine is an unforgettable prom night experience for people with special needs ages 14 and older. Collaborating with STAR, Inc., Lighting the Way, a Night to Shine which is sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation, is held at the spectacular Grace Community Church in New Canaan, Connecticut.

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Metro The Painting Racehorse

** OGTV's final GOOD STORY of the week is about a thoroughbred racehorse who was rescued after a knee injury and has since taken up a new occupation - painting! **

Many animals are very smart. Like the dog who opens doors, or a monkey who can play chess... But one very special horse has captivated our attention for his unbelievable talent.

After retiring from being a racehorse, Metro seemed to be nearing the end of his life. Born with a knee a problem that was the cause of his career's end, he could have been put to sleep. Luckily, Ron Krajewski, an artist from Gettysburg, PA, and his wife, Wendy, adopted him.

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Young Inventor Helps Kids Find Comfort in Hospitals

** OGTV's final KIDSBIZ Playlist story of the week is about a young girl who redirected her fear from a hospital stay into the creation of a device that makes these visits a little less scary for other kids in the same situation. **

The only good part of a hospital stay is the end of it – the moment you go through the doors and know you are heading home. As stressful as this can be for an adult, it is exponentially worse for a young child. Ella Casano was one of those kids suddenly plucked out of normal life by an unpronounceable diagnosis and thrust into a daily routine of painful treatment, fear-stricken parents and the prospect of long periods away from home. Though she was really scared, she saw her situation from a kid's "how do I beat this" perspective and envisioned something that could make the experience just a little bit easier for herself and others like her.

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Popstar Hosts "End Cancer Night" at MLS Game - Caly On The Good (E12)

** OGTV continues our celebration of Pride Month with a story from our original series, Caly On The Good, where Pop Star Caly Bevier has the honor of performing our National Anthem at a Major League Soccer game. **

Caly Bevier has overcome the odds, and ovarian cancer, to become a pop music star. While her artistic family has helped launch her music career, she has never lost touch with another family that is very close to her heart – cancer survivors. In this episode of Caly on the Good, we follow Caly to Houston, Texas where she will participate in the "End Cancer Night" event hosted by the Houston Dynamo of Major League Soccer (MLS) by singing at halftime and being with others facing cancer.

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Littlest Warrior - A Baby With Special Needs Inspires A Special Clothing Line

** OGTV's second GOOD STORY of the week highlights a determined and creative family whose Down Syndrome baby has now inspired a clothing line that supports families with special needs kids. **

Eric and Michelle Sullivan found out at the 20-week ultrasound that their baby had many of the signs of Down Syndrome. A few weeks later the blood test confirmed it.

Despite several serious medical issues, their son Eli pulled through and began growing and putting on weight. Michelle, a photographer with a creative streak, started looking around for fun and inspiring clothes for him, including those with awareness messages but didn't find a style she liked. This was the seed that led her to create "Littlest Warrior Apparel."

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3rd Generation Family Farm is Bustling Community Hub - South Mountain Creamery

** OGTV celebrates National Dairy Month with this story about a family that has been farming the same land for 3 generations and now has the first on farm dairy processing plant in Maryland that home delivers their own milk, yogurt, and ice cream. **

The Sowers family has been farming in Middletown, Maryland for almost 40 years and in all that time their philosophy has never changed - producing and delivering products that you can put on your table and feel good about. Fresh. Produced responsibly. Wholesome and nutritious.

Randy and Karen Sowers started farming in 1981. They rented the land and took out a loan to buy 100 cows. By 1987, they had purchased the home farm of 100 acres. By 2001, they had their own on farm-dairy processing plant, the first in Maryland. Today, three generations of the Sowers family (Randy and Karen's kids, Abby and Ben, and their spouses and children) owns and operates 2,200 acres, with 550 milking cows, over 100 beef cattle, and 16,000 laying chickens.

The Sowers have grown their little family farm, which employees over 75 people, into a centerpiece where people can gather and experience how an authentic, functioning farm really works. They host events like carnivals and tours of the farm, and rent out their space for community events. "South Mountain Creamery being part of the community, I call it 'Grass Roots'", Ben explains. "We want to show how we care about our animals, what we do it for and that's why we open ourselves up. We want to show the good and the bad."

They bottle their own milk, they make their own butter, yogurt, and ice cream and deliver farm fresh ingredients right to your front door, just like the milkmen used to do in the olden days. They also supply their farm fresh ingredients to local restaurants, bakeries, butchers, shops, and retail outlets.

The family is happy to be stewards of the land and are proud of being one of the top charitable donation organizations in the area. "We love to get people to come. We get 30,000 people a year here and we get to teach each and every one of them what agriculture is all about." Giving back to their community is one of the most important things they do.

Watch how South Mountain Creamery started from a small 2 person farm and grew over the years through hard work and family dedication, into a large prosperous family run business that the surrounding community knows and loves.

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We at OnlyGood TV believe that positivity will change lives for the better. We strive to be the hopeful voice that recognizes people are good & out there doing good things for their communities and society at large. We tell the stories of the individuals and organizations that inspire and motivate us, and fuel the Positivity Movement.

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Girl Scouts Also Build Basketball Courts!

** OGTV's second KIDSBIZ playlist video of the week is about a group of Girl Scouts that does more than just sell cookies - they build basketball courts! **

Girl Scouts are on a mission to make the world a better place. 16-year-old, Claire Dundee's latest effort has done just that. In search of a project to complete for her final and highest honor as a Girl Scout, the Girl Scout Gold Award, Claire wanted to do something that really made an impact on lives.

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How To Make A Delicious Glass Of Iced Tea - Tea Time With Cindi Bigelow

** OGTV recognizes National Iced Tea Day with a "how to" story from Cindi Bigelow, the head of a family business that knows a lot about making great tasting tea. **

Whether you make Fresh Brewed Iced Tea by the pitcher or by the glass, there's no better way to cool off than with your favorite Tea on ice! Fresh brewed iced tea is a great alternative to sugary soft drinks all year long. It's a snap to make and economical too!

Join Cindi Bigelow as she shares her home and her tips on how you can have fun creating your own combination of iced tea flavors.

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