Connecticut Families

The Social Chase: Young adults with autism gain cooking skills and make friends

WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) - Gourmet stuffed burgers are on the menu at a cooking class, held at The Art of Yum in Waterbury, and the student chefs are all young adults with autism

"The Social Chase program is a program I started last year to help late teens to adults have fun at events and work on their social skills," explains Helen Taylor, who named the program after her son, Chase, a 19-year-old with the developmental disorder. 

Chase is also the author of two books about The Letter Critters.

In addition to the cooking classes, the program includes game nights with students at Post University

"The kids are happy when they leave they say, 'I’m so happy,' and that’s just priceless," says Taylor. 

It's an effort to help young adults with autism build skill and find employment.  "Give them a chance, it can work," says Taylor with passion. "There are some challenges sometimes but it still works out." 

"It’s good to see him wanting to go and wanting to participate," says Desiree Pijuan of Naugatuck who says her son, Josh Oakley, might even be inspired to go to culinary school.  "I cooked pizza, cupcakes, ginger bread," says Oakley.

The young men are proud of their savory creations as they hang out with friends, enjoying one another's company.  It's something these parents weren't sure they'd ever see. 

"Should I get teary eyes now?" says Taylor.  "It’s a beautiful thing, it’s such a blessing."

The community is coming together to open eyes and ignite potential. 

"They’re getting this chance.  What did we give them?  We gave them opportunity," says Taylor.  "The Art of Yum gave them an opportunity and look where they are.  They’re happy.  If they’re happy, I’m happy and that’s what it’s all about."

The next Social Game Night at Post University takes place Friday, April 12th.  Contact Helen Taylor to learn more about the program:  htaylor@thelettercritters.com

Also, check out the Facebook page for The Social Chase.


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