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At this Chennai grocery shop, people with autism show their skills at customer service

Are you bored of the impersonal shopping experience at malls? Head to Swayam Shoppe, a grocery store started by the school, Swabodhini, in Chennai.

Since 1989 Swabodhini has been reaching out to children with autism, empowering them with skills that enable them to be independent. One of their best known ventures is Swayam, which is run by their students.

The venture was started to teach their students how to manage a retail store. Aruna VN,, Marketing and Expansions Head, Swabodhini, says the store has helped many of their students embark on careers in the retail sector.

We feel that there are a lot of employment opportunities for children with learning disabilities in the retail sector. They have so much of scope in packing and sorting departments. Students with autism need a lot of repetitive training that require patience and consistency. They grasp it quickly. They can easily make a living out of this - Aruna VN, Head of Marketing & Expansions, Swabodhini.

At Swayam, a range of groceries, readymade food items, and juices, to name a few are sold. The children are taught a range of tasks, which include how to identify different products, weigh and pack them, prepare cash bills, interact with customers, handle and maintain cash using calculators, take orders over the phone, deliver items to customers and use computers.

To introduce the children to more roles in the retail sector, Swabodhini has started Swayam on Wheels, a mobile grocery shop that goes to nearby apartments once a month. This has helped improve their social skills further.

"Children with learning disabilities from other schools are welcome to come and get training on retail skills at Swayam Shoppe. We want to empower more children with learning disabilities to run their own businesses and stand on their feet", says Aruna.

Some of their students are working across renowned retail chains in Chennai. Clearly the training they get here is enabling them to stand on their feet and face the world with a smile.

ALSO READ: How persons with disabilities are changing the landscape in retail - My Take by B S Nagesh, Founder, TRRAIN

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