Nick Hedrick | [email protected]

Josh Nikirk is on his way to becoming a chef.

The 20-year-old commanded the grill in a recent private event at K1ds Count Therapy, flipping more than two-dozen burgers for the staff and clients of the Autism services center.

“I’m a good cook,” Nikirk said to the agreement of his manager, who hopes to put those cooking skills on display for burger lovers across west central Indiana.

Nikirk is a team member of Building Essential Skills Together, a nonprofit agency recently launched by the owners of K1ds Count Therapy. The organization provides volunteer and supported employment opportunities and skill-building lessons to teens and adults of all abilities in Montgomery, Boone and Hendricks counties.

Team members help run the B.E.S.T. Burgers and Fries food truck and More than Mops, an indoor and outdoor cleaning and maintenance service, under the guidance of licensed professionals. The skill-building workshops offer pre-vocational and independent living skills such as personal finance and workplace communication.

The programs are aimed at bridging the vocational gap for young adults who’ve graduated from high school or aged out of applied behavioral analysis therapy, known as ABA. The agency hopes to serve a broader population as it grows.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 17.9% of persons with a disability were employed in 2020, compared to an employment-population ratio of 61.8% for persons without a disability.

Seeking to help recent clients prepare for the workforce or volunteer opportunities, K1ds Count Therapy began searching for available programs and services.

“Obviously, the sad answer was there just wasn’t a lot of resources, at least not locally,” said Seth Nunan, a former registered behavior technician at the center who manages the new agency.

After test runs at center locations, B.E.S.T. Burgers and Fries teamed up with Francis & Mount to feed shoppers at a customer appreciation event at Caldwell’s Furniture & Bedding and hopes to set up at Pike Place.

More than Mops was recently hired by The Masonic Cornerstone to clean the building for an upcoming indoor yard sale and marketplace.

Inside the downtown landmark, Nunan had a surprise for a 19-year-old team member who acts in Hendricks County plays and wants to teach theater. Nunan planned to show the young actor the stage where local drama clubs once performed.

To raise money for the programs, team members will host a trivia night on Zoom at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Local businesses have supplied prizes for the event. To register, visit www.buildingessentialskills.org.

The organization will sell T-shirts for World Autism Month in April and a golf tournament is planned for August at The Country Club of Indianapolis.

To make a tax-deductible donation, visit www.buildingessentialskills.org/donate or send a check to Building Essential Skills Together, 1353 E. Main St., Brownsburg, IN 46112.

Original post: https://www.journalreview.com/stories/building-essential-skills-together-helping-young-people-with-autism-enter-workforce,149657

Scroll to Top