“Start with good people, lay out the rules, communicate with your employees, motivate them and reward them.  If you do all those things effectively, you can’t miss.” ~ Lee Iacocca

During the last couple of weeks while meeting with families, professionals and potential community partnerships the question that keeps coming up is:  Are you a non-profit company?  The answer is no, we are not a non-profit.  That answer seems to take almost everyone off guard.  How could two mothers of children with Autism open up a for profit company?  Here is the answer: there is a difference between profiting off of Autism, and being a profitable company.

The simple fact is that disorders such as Autism have become a very big business.  People are getting rich off of our children, it is a “big bucks” business, not only in therapy centres where big promises are made with little to no results, but also in seminars, training and consultations that often offer very little practical, usable information for families.  I have a very personal experience where someone made very large financial gains over broken promises to me while compromising the well-being of my son.

Parents of children with Autism will all tell you that most days they are mentally and physically exhausted.  From spending days living with a child who has Autism to spending the nights worry about your child and where they will be 10 years from now, it is exhausting.  We tend to forget though that it is not just parents who suffer “Autism burnout”.  No one gets away from the exhaustive burnout associated with Autism; therapists, teachers, siblings, and parents, we all suffer from it.  ABA therapists who work with children with Autism for extended periods of time, often have high levels of job-related stress, lower levels of job satisfaction, increased frequency of occupational “burnout” and higher than average job turnover (Journal of Autism Development, 39, 2009 and 42).   Routine, consistency, and familiarity are all extremely important for a child with Autism.  Unfortunately though due to high rates of burnout for people who work with children with Autism the staff turnover is so high that children are not getting the consistency of staff they require.  It is easy to forget that because we as parents are so exhausted ourselves.

The success of our program at the Lighthouse Learning and Development Centre rests solely on the team we have in place.  It isn’t good enough for us just to have staff, we want the best of the best.  When we promise parents the most qualified and experienced team members, we want to deliver on that promise.  We can’t do that though if we aren’t competitive in pay and benefits.  If we want our team to stay fresh, knowledgeable, engaged and not exhausted we need to continually update their skills, we need to be constantly offering our staff the most innovative and updated training, we need to support their ongoing educational endeavours.  It is our belief that by valuing our employees and ensuring that they constantly know their value to us, our staff turnover will not only be low but virtually non-existent.  We hope to be a profitable company not to line our own pockets, but to create an environment where we truly are the best of the best.

There are many people and many places regarding Autism as big business, and unfortunately it is working for them.  We strive to separate ourselves from them by the program we offer and the team we have implementing that program.  We don’t offer broken promises, we are only as successful as the students we teach.