Aspire Accessories empowers artisans with autism

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HOUSTON, Texas — A Houston program is empowering young artisans with autism and other special needs.

Aspire Accessories sells everything from jewelry to home goods, clothing, purses, keychains, custom gifts and more.

The business first started with a mother’s desire to help her son learn creative and vocational skills.

“When my son was two years old, he was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder,” said Denise Hazen, founder of Aspire Accessories. “The doctor told me that he would never be a contributing member of society.”

But Denise was determined to prove the doctors wrong. When her son Nicholas was around ten years old, a teacher noticed that he had a fine eye for detail.

“Nick started working with a leather craftsman, Peter Main, and we started making leather bracelets. It just started to blossom,” said Hazen. “And so I went to Nicholas’s teacher and I said, can I hire his classmates and they can help me with production and making the bracelets?”

Ten years later, Aspire Accessories now has 24 paid artisans in the program and they create goods that are sold all across the country.

“I love working here with my friends and teachers,” said artisan Valerie Codrow. “I was just doing embroidery. It was really wonderful. And practice makes me perfect.”

“I have several jobs here at Aspire,” said artisan Steven O’Connor, Jr. “There’s embroidering, sewing, painting. I like making bracelets, too. And I like it because I like getting paid.”

Studies show that more than half of young adults with autism are unemployed, and nearly half of 25-year-olds with autism have never held a paying job. But Aspire Accessories is helping to change that outcome for all of its talented artisans.

“Earning a paycheck is something that a lot of the parents didn’t think their children would ever be capable of doing,” said Hazen. “They reap the rewards of their hard work. All the money from our sales, it goes directly back into the program. It pays for the teachers and our space and for the products that we make. Through supporting Aspire, you’re providing meaningful work for these deserving individuals.”

Aspire Accessories also sells seasonal items, including a rodeo collection and an Easter collection. To meet the artisans and view some of their products, visit aspireaccessories.com.

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