An Israeli tea company has paired up with a special needs school in Brooklyn to provide job training to autistic teens.
Galilee Tisanes tea company, which distributes tea produced in Israel for the US market, has found working with the school students benefits both the company and the teens.
Galilee Tisanes CEO Dror Harel explained that the idea came from his Israeli business partner Ilan Michaeli’s wife, who has a connection to the Imagine Academy for Autism and thought the tea company may be a good fit for the school’s vocational training program.
After meeting with the school’s curriculum director, Anna Coles, Harel and his partner decided to give the work program a try.
“Anna told us about the occupational therapy they do with the kids and said they were looking for something more significant, something with real value,” Harel said.
The youth enrolled in the program assemble boxes and package tea, a job that Coles explained gives the teens the “pride of working in a team,” and also helps the teens use their strengths to do meaningful work.
“People with autism like routine, and that works to their advantage in performing organizing and sorting jobs,” Coles said, noting that that teens like being able to contribute to the community.
“They gain self-respect and a feeling of real involvement in the community as well as in the world around them,” Coles pointed out.
To make the work more accessible to the autistic youth, Coles worked with Harel to develop a visual map that helped the teens understand how to fold the recycled paper boxes, and helped the company break down its packaging requirements in easy-to-follow steps.
“It’s not an easy carton to fold, because it has many angles and it takes time,” Harel stressed, adding that the teens’ diligence has allowed them to master the task and complete it over and over again during their 45 minute work-learning periods at schools, a few times each week.
Each work session provides 10 to 20 completed boxes for the company and provides the kids with a paycheck for their efforts.
“This [program] gives each kid $20 to $30 every month to feel they are really working,” Harel said.