ShoeboxTasks Vocational Workshop for Adults with Autism
ShoeboxTasks® were designed by Ron Larsen during his work as a therapist with the TEACCH program, a statewide agency serving the
autistic population of North Carolina. Together with his wife, Linda, they operate a small cottage industry, Centering on Children, Inc., that designs, manufactures and packages ShoeboxTasks® in Asheville, North Carolina.
Centering on Children has experienced steady growth and continued progress since its inception in the mid '90s. We now cut our lids in-house on a "ShopBot" programmable router.
Individuals with Autism work on packaging and assembling
the Tasks. They all make an hourly wage and are valued for the steadiness, accuracy and spirit which they exemplify each day at work.
We have recently had molds made for our Shoebox base and lid. This not only gives us greater control over the product, but our investment supports our local economy--they are being made by a family-owned business not far from our shop. Centering on Children also serves as a model workshop for those interested in working with adults on the Autism spectrum in a vocational setting.
It all began in 1996 when I was working as the newest (and chronologically the oldest) therapist at the TEACCH Center in Asheville, North Carolina. My fellow therapists, Anne McGuire, Catherine Faherty, and Sloane Burgess, offered encouragement and support during the early phases of developing the tasks. Another therapist, Galene Fraley, when she saw the blank expression on my face as I was trying to put a name to these activities, said, “Why don’t you call them Shoebox Tasks?” Roger Cox, director of the center at the time suggested that more people should be made aware of the tasks and maybe I should should consider marketing them. Not wanting to make mistakes or to misuse my position as a TEACCH therapist, I kept Gary Mesibov, the Director of Division TEACCH in Chapel Hill, aware of developments as they progressed. He was supportive of the idea then and continues to be to this day, sharing information about the activities during his lectures throughout the States and abroad.
Special thanks goes to my son Adam, who has filmed and edited several TEACCH training films, produced the ShoeboxTasks® promotional CD that is used in TEACCH trainings, and designed this website. My youngest son Nick is bringing his design talents to ShoeboxTasks® as well and is credited with one of the newest activities, Positive Attraction. Nick has also mastered the ShopBot, a machine which cuts all of our shoebox lids in-house, making life much simpler for us.
We are grateful to Susan Rhew of Susan Rhew Design, Inc., who conveys the spirit of ShoeboxTasks® through our brochures and instructional literature. Our thanks to Gary Crossey, of Fastfwd Design, who put together our Shoeboxtask Educational CD, overcoming many programming challenges along the way.
ShoeboxTasks® would not have happened had it not been for my wife and biggest supporter, Linda. Neither she nor I could have imagined early on where these tasks were going to take us, and yet I think we both feel that as the tasks have grown, so have we.