Shannon Sullivan says the Autism Community Store started as a way to fill a need she discovered after her daughter was diagnosed with autism.
“The store was really about trying to solve problems that I had experienced as a parent,” she told Denver7.
Now it’s as much of a resource for families in the autism community as it is a store.
“It’s also about being able to get the advice and sort of suggestions,” Shannon said. “All of my staff is highly trained. Everyone who works here is either a parent, a former therapist or teacher or person on the spectrum. Everyone has their own personal insight that they can give. We guide people toward those solutions.”
Aviva Getschel describes herself as an adult with autism. She often comes to the store to buy new “fidgets” to help her with her college studies.
“If I have a little fidget thing that I can play with under my desk while I’m listening to lecture it means that I understand the lecture so much better,” she said.
While Shannon buys most of the stores fidgets, toys and educational items from manufacturers, the weighted blankets, toys and lap pads she sells are sewn locally by 15 people, many of which have autism.
“It’s really grown into being a core part of our business now,” she said.
Jaci Smith fell in love with the store and is now an employee. She first visited the Autism Community Store while trying to find a weighted blanket for her daughter.
“My daughter has sensory processing disorder and at 3 and a half years old when I learned about the store had never slept through the night,” Smith said. “We got her a weighted blanket at the recommendation of her OT [occupational therapist] and that night she slept for the first time ever all the way through the night. She woke up the next day and said she had the best sleep she’d ever had.”
Michael Cryer shops at the store because of its calming atmosphere.
“Sometimes individuals on the spectrum need a store, a small store, so they can physically focus on what they need to buy,” he said. “There’s not things bothering your ears like all five senses hitting you at once, and believe me when that happens, it hurts me.”
The Autism Community Store is hosting a resource fair for families on Sunday, May 21. More than 60 groups, organizations and businesses will be there to help connect families with the resources they want and need. The fair runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 7800 E Iliff Ave., right outside Unit J. The fair is free to families, but there will be food to purchase and a bouncy house to keep the kids entertained.