Yes She Can Inc. operates Girl AGain, a resale boutique for American Girl dolls and all their accessories and books, as an authentic business, serving as the venue for our job skills development program.
Why dolls? While most typical girls lose interest in their dolls by they time they reach middle school, many girls with autism do not experience the social pressure to put their dolls away. These girls are very brand loyal and have a great passion as well as a developed expertise in their American Girl doll collection. This expertise has a market value and therefore can be viewed as a strength. And it can be used as a platform to develop other business skills that can be transferred to jobs in the competitive work environment.
Of course not every young woman with autism shares the passion for American Girl. We understand that. But what they all share is the need to develop job skills in a safe yet authentic business environment, particularly the “soft skills” necessary to become employable.
The resale business model advantage: There are many and varied business tasks that provide learning opportunities: sorting through donated clothes to create complete doll outfits; pricing products competitively by researching and comparing prices on eBay; cleaning dolls with accuracy; price tagging the merchandise; taking photos for marketing; posting content on digital platforms; managing and tracking inventory, book keeping, organizing and hosting customer events; and more.
Incubator and laboratory: At Girl AGain we nurture young women at work without the pressure of a for-profit business. We are applying the most effective training techniques that conventional employers as well as autism employment entrepreneurs can use as they begin to hire people on the autism spectrum.
Professional coaching: Lesli Cattan, LCSW, is Director of Training Programs, and leads a team of extraordinary professionals. Sheri Baron, PhD., Pat Rowan, LMSW, Diane Annunziata, PhD. and Theresa Crawford work with trainees one-to-one and in small groups at the store focusing on social skills and behavior regulation. Marjorie Madfis, MBA, provides coaching in business processes and workplace behavior.
We are always seeking job coaches. Learn how you can be a coach here.
Trainee target audience:
- Teen girls ages 17-21 (school age) with Individual Education Plans (IEPs) under IDEA who are in the transition phase of public education and are working towards a high school graduation credential, including the CDOS certificate.
- Young adult women (ages 18 – 26) with autism spectrum disorders or similar challenges who have recently transitioned into adult services such as vocational rehabilitation services and Medicaid funded social services and wish to pursue employment.
- College women with ASD and related social and learning challenges (currently enrolled or recently graduated) and need hands on practical job coaching and support to develop necessary skills for employment. A diploma is often not enough.
Training approach: While we directly teach the tasks necessary to operate the retail store, we focus on the business processes and the behaviors that are fundamental to effective work. These include
- arriving at the job on time and ready to work
- understanding the role of the manager
- collaborating with peers
- asking for help
- taking responsibility
- communicating appropriately
- accepting feedback
- regulating emotional behavior
- taking breaks
- learning the “hidden curriculum”