New storefront at Adult Autism Center features gifts and crafts made by clients of the centerFeb 09, 2024 02:01PM ● By Ella Joy Olsen
Cheryl Smith, a parent of a person attending the Center, former Valley board member, and current board member of the Autism Council of Utah, and Julie Winn, vice president of Children, Youth, Family & Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Services at Valley Behavioral Health, cut the ribbon on the new storefront at the Adult Autism Center in Murray. (Ella Joy Olsen/City Journals)
In late November, Valley Behavioral Health’s Adult Autism Center had a ribbon-cutting ceremony to unveil a new storefront featuring items made by clients of the center. This little store will provide adults with autism an opportunity to express their creative talents, learn storefront skills, and earn a little money for activities.
The storefront is located in the Adult Autism Center of Lifetime Learning in Murray at 6232 S. 900 East in a bright and welcoming building. The storefront, itself, will be open every Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and once a quarter for larger seasonally themed events.
Unique client creations available for purchase include artwork, candles, coasters, note cards, plants, bath bombs, and so on. The center recently had a kiln donated and will soon be adding pottery to their list of gift items.
“Look at these adorable coasters,” said Cheryl Smith, a parent of a person attending the Center, former Valley board member, and current board member of the Autism Council of Utah, as she held up an item for purchase. “We call this merchandise with a mission.”
Valley Behavioral Health’s Adult Autism Center is the only one of its kind in Utah, focusing on serving adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and providing all-day care to their clients. The storefront is a testament to the center’s commitment to providing vocational skills to its clients and increasing their independence.
“When the items the clients have made are sold, the funds go back to the clients for activities, rec passes, whatever is needed,” Julie Winn, vice president of Children, Youth, Family & Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Services at Valley Behavioral Health said. “It also serves a dual purpose toward future employment. The storefront will give experience in how to greet and interact with customers and how to check them out.”
The Pingree Center, established in Utah in 1977, was the first program of its kind created to serve preschool children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Over the years, it expanded its services to individuals aged 22 and older. However, as these children age into adulthood, many of them still need a high level of support. This is where the Adult Autism Center comes in.
According to statistics provided by the Adult Autism Center, there are 10,375 people aged 15 to 61 with autism spectrum disorder in Utah. The center serves the needs of adults requiring a high level of support, those with lower cognitive and communication skills as well as the most challenging behavioral issues. The center currently has 25 clients and as they hire and train more staff, they will be able to serve more clients.
The center has a craft room, garden room, a gym, and a home living space (looking much like a faux-studio apartment). In this living space clients learn how to make a bed, clean a bathroom, fold clothing and cook simple meals. And now the center boasts a storefront.
“We try to provide as much time as possible out and about with our clients, doing things that everyone gets to do. Each of them has a membership to the Murray Rec Center to swim and play basketball. We have our own buses for transportation to places like the zoo, the Dollar Store, which is a favorite, and the aquarium,” Winn said. “We want them to live life in the community and to empower independence.”
Sponsors of the storefront include Doug Smith Subaru and the Autism Council of Utah.
“We talk as parents that we need to live just one day longer than our disabled kids, but we know that’s not going to happen,” Smith said. “So our goal is to have a place like this where they can come and people are their friends, where they are safe and they can develop life skills. We are really excited for this storefront and we’re grateful to Doug Smith Subaru for helping to make this happen.” λ