Autism-Friendly Businesses Doing Their Best to Adapt

May 07, 2020

It’s no secret that small businesses are struggling to survive and adapt during the COVID-19 pandemic, and they need as much help as possible right now. Just as disconcerting is the resulting lack of employment opportunities for adults with autism, a group for whom unemployment numbers can be as high as 80 percent.

In recent years, some small businesses have been willing to invest in individuals with autism, often with positive outcomes. These businesses realize that employing those with disabilities means they are hiring someone with a solid work ethic who is committed to their job. Hiring people with autism also increases diversity in the workplace while demonstrating to the wider community how much adults with autism have to offer.

The following businesses represent a few of many that have shown a consistent commitment to hiring individuals with autism and are doing what they can to stay afloat and serve their customers.

Breaking Grounds Coffee & Cafe

Breaking Grounds provides individuals with
autism the opportunity for gainful employment in a supportive and progressive work environment. The café, located in Mount Holly, NJ, and owned by the nonprofit Zefer Foundation, employs many adults with developmental disabilities and features the art and woodwork of students and adults with special needs. The business is holding an online fundraiser to help get through the pandemic. They hope to open a take out window soon!

Popcorn for the People

A social enterprise of nonprofit Let’s Work for Good, this  Popcorn for the People in Piscataway, NJ, bills itself as “an equal ‘poportunity’ employer. Every tin purchased provides at least an hour of meaningful employment for an adult with autism or other developmental disability who cooks and packages the popcorn. Though usually focused on sales at theaters, hotels, and sporting and entertainment venues, they have turned to online sales as a source of revenue. You can order popcorn on their website.

Spectrum Designs

Spectrum Designs, based in Port Washington, NY, began as a pilot program with a staff that consisted of two teenagers with autism. In recent years it has expanded to a concierge laundry service (Spectrum Suds) and gourmet bakery (Spectrum Bakes). Spectrum Designs has pivoted to selling personal protective equipment, and Spectrum Suds is providing free contactless pickup and drop-off laundry service. They are also offering free laundry services for first responders.

Grateful Bites

Flemington-based nonprofit, Ability 2 Work continues to operate their Bakery/Café Grateful Bites for online orders and no-contact pick-up. The nonprofit was founded as “a fully inclusive and supported business environment for the differently-abled to find meaningful lives and jobs they love.” They’ve also donated to frontline healthcare workers at Hunterdon Medical Center.

These past few months have been hard, especially for small businesses. Businesses such as these that are dedicated to the special-needs community deserve to survive and to thrive once again. They believe in giving individuals with autism an opportunity, and we believe in them.

Experience Our Power of Connection

Autism New Jersey is following recommendations from the CDC and state Department of Health and is implementing telework and remote meetings for its employees to help reduce the community spread of the coronavirus.

During this time, our 800.4.AUTISM Helpline will remain open. Please leave a message with specific dates and times you are available for a call-back, or email  You can also message us via our website, and we’ll aim to reply promptly.

We remain focused on our mission to be a resource for the autism community. With a fluid situation and great uncertainty, we’ll share relevant, accurate information as it becomes available. We encourage you to regularly visit our central hub of coronavirus resources for the autism community.