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Soup Leads to Independence for Arizonans with Autism

February 24, 2010

PHOENIX - Adults with autism have a new opportunity to live independent lives, thanks to the first business venture of a Phoenix-based support agency. Clients of the Southwest Autism Resource and Research Center (SARRC) will be making and selling soup prepared from recipes donated by some of Arizona's best-known chefs. SARRC interim president Jeri Kendle says hands-on training is part of the eleven-week "Culinaryworks" curriculum.

"We'll have Outback chefs that will be working with us, helping us to train our adults in making the soup – and then, we'll be selling the soup. So, they'll learn a lot of different skills."

According to Kendle, autism is a range of conditions typically marked by communication and socialization issues and repetitive behaviors. Even in their 50s, she adds, some autistic adults have never held a job and are still living at home.

"So many of these individuals that we work with can't get past the interview process. So, by helping them just to get the first step, to be hired into a job, it's just really huge."

Kendle says programs for adults with autism are few, something the Culinaryworks project will address by teaching life, social and employment skills.

"It's our goal to create a life of independence. To live beyond their parents, so that they can enjoy their community life, be employed and just enjoy what all the rest of us really want – just a nice quality of life."

The first soup for sale is Chef Eddie Matney's Mediterranean Chicken, which will be available on Tuesdays for eight weeks beginning in March, at the Arizona Public Service corporate cafeteria.

Kendle says her program's goal is self-sufficiency through jobs and eventually, franchise or self-employment opportunities. She also hopes the Culinaryworks soup program can be self-supporting. A Virginia G. Piper Trust grant provided the startup funds.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ