Empowering Neurodiversity: Special Education Families Brew an Inclusive Future
Tucked away in a basement in Wassenaar, a group of American School of The Hague (ASH) families is brewing inclusion, one beer at a time. They call themselves Spectrum Bier, and they are committed to empowering a neurodiverse workforce by providing a nurturing and inclusive workspace that cultivates individual strengths, fosters professional growth, and promotes social integrity.
Founded by two ASH families whose children in the High School Special Education program will graduate this spring, Spectrum Bier started with a basic question – what happens after graduation?
While there are bakeries and cafes – akin to the school’s weekly Trojan Cafe – that attempt to answer this question, brewing provides added flexibility and different roles for these young adults. The choice of beer, too, as the product is very deliberate – it's an adult product to address adult challenges.
“Brewing offers different places for different people to fit into,” says Claire, a parent and one of Spectrum’s co-founders. “There is enough individualization to support the needs and preferences of potential workers.”
This flexibility and individualization allows those working at Spectrum Bier to focus on production, packaging, marketing, and shipment as well as assume roles that are either forward facing or behind the scenes. Elliot, who is set to graduate this spring, likes to be involved in production while Verity, his classmate and colleague, prefers to center her efforts on canning. The parents take a supervisory role, working on business development and, of course, quality control.
“These young adults have challenges but they also have great talent,” says Sarah, another parent and founding member. “Spectrum is about leveraging that talent to benefit society.”
The challenge before Spectrum, much like many other small businesses, is developing sustainable systems to bring a product to market. To this end, Spectrum has benefited from volunteer support and budding partnerships. A recent workshop with a team from Deloitte, for example, resulted in the donation of canning equipment and label makers.
Additional support is needed in order to help Spectrum achieve its near-term vision of bringing a product to market and being a fully operational brewery with a physical premises, including guidance in Dutch business and employment law, tax advising, and brewing expertise. As well, Spectrum is gathering donations to support the purchase of equipment and supplies. To get involved and support Spectrum’s efforts, connect with Spectrum at info@spectrumbier.com .
In their pursuit of inclusion, this collective of ASH families is not only crafting a distinctive product but also brewing a future where neurodiversity is celebrated.
“Spectrum will offer more opportunities for adults, normal people, and special people of any age like me,” says Verity, who will graduate from the High School Special Education program this spring. “We will have fun at work, feel safe and reach our potential in the future. You can start your training with Spectrum Bier then move to many awesome things in your life when you feel ready.”