Palm Beach Gardens mother says more services needed for adults with autism

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla - "You're doing awesome, keep going, move it, next one," Valerie Herskowitz tells her 22-year-old son, Blake.

She's trying to establish a chocolate-making business in her Palm Beach Gardens home with her son, who is on the autism spectrum.

She's facing the dilemma confronting many parents of children with autism who are becoming adults; there are few programs or opportunities for them.

"On a national level no, on a state level no, and on a city level absolutely not," she said of the programs for adults with autism.

Herskowitz has been a speech pathologist for more than 30 years, working with youngsters on the autism spectrum. She says as the children grow older, the resources dry up.

"I think once the children reach a certain age, I wouldn't say they're forgotten but they're certainly not emphasized at all," she said. "There's nothing going on for the adults."

So with few options to choose from, she set up T he Chocolate Spectrum last year.

"My major purpose is to provide some sort of opportunity for both my son to have a meaningful life, and eventually to grow the business so we can employ other individuals on the spectrum."

Blake is on the lower functioning end of the autism spectrum. He does not speak and needs 24-hour supervision.

"What I taught him to do is be is the mold filler," she says as he pours chocolate into a mold.  "He's the one who takes the product we put into the chocolate. He can actually fill up the truffle molds, the chocolate molds."

The sales of the chocolates are small at this point with part of the profits going to autism-related charities.  She's hoping to grow it large enough to move it out of her kitchen and turn it into a model other small businesses  can use  for adults with autism

"In the next possibly five to ten years there's going to be a huge amount of people becoming adults, and I don't think people are farsighted. I think they're shortsighted and they're not really looking at the crisis that's going to be coming," she said.
 

On the web: The Chocolate Spectrum http://bit.ly/K2F1s5

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