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"Self-Direction Saturday" - SNACK* Models Walk The Red Carpet Fashion Show on May 11th @ 4PM


"Self-Direction Saturday" - SNACK* Models Walk The Red Carpet Fashion Show on May 11th @ 4PM

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Sitting at Special Needs Mass at Blessed Sacrament Church yesterday with Jackie Ceonzo of SNACK*, it dawned on me how much I/we take her for granted in the Self-Direction community of NYC. Besides the support for SNACK*, this event is also an opportunity to meet many of the Self-Direction programs and community that we all need to understand better. Here is the opportunity to join SNACK* for a fun day of shopping at:

The SNACK* 2nd Annual Fashion Show

Fabulous gift items for Mother's Day, and pick up a few things for 

yourself too! Wonderful array of items will be on display:

  •  Endeavor Athletic Wear - Sophisticated Workout Clothes for the Modern Athlete

  • Kuo Ting Jewelry by Debbie Kuo - Vintage Meets Modern/One-of-a-Kind Pieces/Amazing Prices

  • Marie Atelier Handbags - High Quality/Special Collection/Handmade in Brazil

  • - Fashionable Sneakers by Branding Genius Jeff Henderson

  • SNACK*- Coffee, Student Art Scarves & Gear - All inventory, labeling, & packaging are handled by our wonderful group of  SNACK* 21+ members.

  • LuvMichael - Gluten & Nut Free Granola, Produced by Young Adults with Autism

  • Invictus Enterprises - Sweet Potato, All Natural Dog Biscuits, Hand Made by Young People of all Abilities

  • Village Health Works - Items Produced in Burundi Supporting Quality Health Care and Education for the Community  

  • The Otto Specht School and 21+ Community - Offers Waldorf Education and hands-on learning for children and 21+ young adults with learning challenges and developmental delays. They will be selling student-made items featuring ingredients from our farm in Rockland County.



AS OF 5/2/19*

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Ian Aquino

Shoen Assis

Geri Avilai

Yianni Batalias

George Billson

Ava Blyn

Noah Buhler

Joe Ceonzo

Aiden Del Aguila

Harry George 

Greenlee Gutterman

Ian Gutterman

William Hamilton

Julia Kaminsky

Noko Kurusu

Maxi Lupa

Simon Portelli

snack nyc fashion models.png

Leo Salinas

Allan Sanchez

Dylan Singer

Dusty Sweeney

Jordan Torres

Justin Torres

Julio A Vega


Podcast with Journey Skills: Allison Berkley of Invictus Enterprises on Jobs Training


Podcast with Journey Skills: Allison Berkley of Invictus Enterprises on Jobs Training

October 29, 2018 - I was able to listen today, and this is a great interview. Coming from the U.K. host, it is great to hear the trans-atlantic collaboration.

Dustin Sweeney has done very well with his Job Training skills at Invictus Enterprises on weekends. Allison Berkley of Invictus was recently featured on the Journey Skills Podcast, and you can listen here:


 #SharedProsperity: Creating a New Self-Direction Economy @ Invictus Enterprises


#SharedProsperity: Creating a New Self-Direction Economy @ Invictus Enterprises


The shared prosperity goal captures two key elements: 1) Economic growth, and 2) Equity. Growth is not enough by itself. Improvement in #SharedProsperity requires growth to be inclusive of the less well-off.

THE JOB: As parents of an Autistic son, my wife and I have dreams for Dustin Sweeney and his friends. Dustin has always been very task oriented, and the big question is - How can we apply Dustin's abilities to a work setting as he transitions out of school?

Video #1: Today, Dustin Sweeney is a Professional Dog Biscuit Baker at Invictus Enterprises, and he is getting paid for his work!! Invictus empowers a heretofore untapped work force, and the Team @ Invictus is seizing the day. This video shows what autistic individuals can do in a work setting, and it proves that having a purpose in life creates happiness for the bakers and their parents:

Dustin Sweeney receiving his first paycheck from Alison Berkley & Molly Sebastian! 

Video #2: While the first video offers a feel-good story about the bakery -- we need sales!! The scrumptious artisan dog biscuits are flying 'off the shelves' at the Invictus Online Store, and 'Oscar the Salesman' is selling "NoBones About It" dog biscuits on dog-shop to dog-shop sales calls around New York City:

The "new economy" of Invictus is thriving, and they found supply needed to catch up to demand. To replenish inventory to meet this increased dog biscuit demand, Invictus held a special baking session over Spring Break 2018 in a small industrial kitchen in Manhattan. Here the team was under a deadline and they responded beautifully:

Fedcap Kitchen - Grand Central

Fedcap Kitchen - Grand Central

Advent Lutheran Church Kitchen - Upper West Side

Advent Lutheran Church Kitchen - Upper West Side

THE COMMUNITY - Invictus has created the "special sauce" that is very hard to articulate in a Blog post. I often say that "Surfers Healing is my business model" , offering 1-3 day surf clinics for Autistic surfers. Everyone, almost everyone, loves the beach, so that is arguably an easy setting to attract and bring people together to create a community around surf, sand, sun, and fun. But how do you create a community in the "real world" of work? At Invictus, parents, workers, staff, and friends all gather to "bake the biscuits" for 3 hour sessions. In today's world, three hours straight of focusing on one thing is a long time. For the Autistic population, three hours is a REALLY long time. Creating a work-based community may inherently be more challenging to create than one based on surfing...but Invictus is off to a great start:

Invictus' Moms strategizing next moves outside the kitchen

Invictus' Moms strategizing next moves outside the kitchen

Team Sweeney gathers @ Invictus' baking session

Team Sweeney gathers @ Invictus' baking session

#ExtendedFamily - Chrise, Zaarah, Dustin, and Fazie

#ExtendedFamily - Chrise, Zaarah, Dustin, and Fazie

THE PRODUCT - With absolute conviction, I can say that the "No Bones About It" dog biscuits are a great product! Don't buy them to be supportive of Dustin (but thank-you for the support), buy them because they are awesome and your doggies will love them!!

QUESTIONS - Some questions that are now being raised about Invictus include:

  • How far can Invictus take this?
  • How do we turn this into meaningful long-term employment?
  • What will "Inclusion" and "Integration" look like for the Invictus workforce as they leverage their work readiness and learned job skills and integrate into existing business organizations? 
  • How will paychecks co-exist with SD budgets?

My view is that these are all great questions to have in Dustin Sweeney's life. Dustin has always brought "purpose" to our family, but now I am witnessing and excited about his ability to be genuinely purposeful in his own life. The future looks brighter and the vision keeps growing stronger with every baking session at Invictus:

We are excited for the future, and we continue to explore adaptations, modifications, and the use of technology to enable our work force. Invictus productivity is growing with each baking session and we are convinced that the Invictus workforce will become a viable integrated work force that is productive and sought after. #BeUnconquerable
— Alison Berkley & Molly Sebastian: Co-Founders of Invictus
Molly Sebastian and Alison Berkley

Molly Sebastian and Alison Berkley


Jobs, Jobs, Jobs - CBS Sunday Morning, Cornell ILR, Invictus, and SNACK 21+


Jobs, Jobs, Jobs - CBS Sunday Morning, Cornell ILR, Invictus, and SNACK 21+

Yang Tan Institute @ Cornell University

In the fall of 2017, I attended a conference in NYC put on by the Yang Tan Institue at Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR). The conference highlighted a number of "higher functioning Autistics" OUTPERFORMING their peers in the corporate world due to the Autistic's ability to focus, their loyalty, and their retention rates.

We help make possible the full participation of people with disabilities in the workplace, the community, and society.
— Cornell ILR - Yang Tan Institute

CBS Sunday Morning - video

My sister sent this video to me, and it is reflective of the changing attitudes towards Autistics in society and the workplace. At the end of the day, we live in NYC, and this is America. Much of our individual identity is driven by the jobs and careers that we have and pursue. Why should Dustin Sweeney not have that opportunity?

This CBS Sunday Morning piece had some great stories of higher funtioning Autistics on "The growing acceptance of autism in the workplace":

Yes, these were higher functioning Autistics in the CBS story. Our son would not fit in this story, but this is a growing trend, see Cornell.

Again, Dustin Sweeney would not fit into these corporate programs as they exist today, but a number of panelist remarked how their contracts were starting to require outside contractors to have a percentage of Special Needs workers. 

Dustin Sweeney could be a Professional Baker down the road, see Invictus:

Invictus Enterprises

Dustin Sweeney will enter the workforce in 2019, and these corporate programs are too advanced for Dustin.  However, he is now in training to be a Baker at Invictus' NoBones About It. It is an awesome program:

Many of Dustin's friends have graduated from Hawthorne Country Day School and are now working as Coffee Grinders and Packagers at SNACK's 21+ Coffee Factory

I am amazed at the progress that I am seeing in the employment arena for the Developmentally Disabled in the past six months.