Bay area organization aims to help those with autism achieve success

By Katie Jones, Reporter
Last Updated: Saturday, January 06, 2018, 2:54 PM EST

A Tampa-based organization is on a mission to shift the stigma about people with autism by giving them a chance to learn and succeed.

  • Tampa organization aims to help those with autism
  • Autism Shifts helps provide tools and resources
  • Artista's, a cafe, also employs those with autism

Autism Shifts is an organization that was founded by Vicky Westra. 

Westra is the mother of a young adult with autism and was inspired to help provide others with the tools and resources to help them get out into the workforce.

She also opened the café, “Artista’s” which has given jobs to members of the autism community.

Russell Wadsworth is the café’s supervisor and says it’s provided him with a paycheck and helped him overcome obstacles.

"This truly changed my life and I love every moment of it," Wadsworth said. "I had trouble speaking to people, public speaking was always something I struggled with."

This weekend, Autism Shifts announced new programs to help young adults and their families. The organization has partnered with local businesses to give people with autism career opportunities.

"There's a stigma about autism, they just don't get employed and so we're out to change that right here in Tampa Bay," Westra said.

Westra said about 90 percent of the autism community is unemployed but stressed that they’re more than capable of succeeding if they’re given the proper tools, and a chance.

"It's people with autism, their families coming together first and really starting to create that momentum of what can happen if we start getting together and sharing resources,"  Westa said. "And then, it's the business community coming together to say yes we want to open our arms to understanding this."

For more information about the organization, visit artistascafe.com.