Girl Scout’s small business raises Autism awareness

(left to right) Pam Jayakar, Aimee Cayer, and Jules Cayer discuss the various types of key chains for sale. - Aaron Berkowitz photo

(left to right) Pam Jayakar, Aimee Cayer, and Jules Cayer discuss the various types of key chains for sale. – Aaron Berkowitz photo

Not many people can say they ran a successful business at the age of 12, but Jules Cayer can and she said she’s having lots of fun doing it.

Jules is a Shelton native who is known for participating in robotics competitions with her team at Shelton Intermediate School and her passion for being a Girl Scout.

One thing many people don’t know about Jules is that she has Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Jules’s mother, Aimee Cayer, said there are a lot of stigmas that are associated with the disorder, but she believes many of them stem from being misinformed.

“Some people can’t believe Jules has Autism because she is very high functioning, but Autism doesn’t mean that a person is any less capable of doing something than a person without the disorder and Jules is a perfect example of that,” said Cayer.

Within the last few months, Jules has created a business in which she makes keychains and ornaments to raise money for the Autism on the Sea Foundation and the Charlie Grant. The foundation is based out of Shelton and was created 10 years ago to help organize cruises for adults and families living with Autism, Down Syndrome and other related disabilities.

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The Charlie Grant was created in memory of one child who who traveled with Autism on the Seas. The foundation, along with Charlie’s family, sponsors the grant to ensure that one family will be comped to go on the cruise.

According to Aimee, the success of the business was a complete surprise and has led to Autism on the Seas sponsoring her business.

“We never expected there to be such a high demand when we first began making ornaments, but now you can see how excited Jules is to have such an increase in customers,” said Cayer.

“Now Autism on the Sea pays for all of the materials we need,” said Jules. “This makes me so happy.”

She added that she really enjoys the process of making ornaments, but the feeling of making a sale is what keeps her going.

“The look on people’s face when they get their keychain or ornament makes me feel good. Seeing the person smile because of what I made makes me want to make more,” said Jules.

Jules and her family have also been on two cruises sponsored by Autism on the Sea Foundation and said the bond they make on their getaway means a lot to them.

“Last cruise I made a friend and we really connected,” said Jules. “We just understood each other a little more.”

Cayer said the trip also helps parents cope with the disorder as well by creating a sense of community.

“Not every adult understands the disorder and I’ve lost several friends because of her diagnosis, unfortunately. It’s nice to be able to sit and talk with people who do get it or at least aren’t as caught up in being judgmental,” she said.

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Pam Jayakar, Jules’s troop leader, said Jules has exceeded her requirements to receive her Silver Award, which a scout earns by completing 50 hours of community service, but continues to work hard.

Jayakar said the troops gain friendships through activities such as selling cookies and working on towards awards, but she gets satisfaction from seeing her scouts grow over time.

“I’ve had some girls who have been with me since kindergarten so obviously I see a big change there, but then I have a girl like Jules who just joined our troop this year and I can already see a lot of growth,” said Jayakar.

Jules’s items are still for sale and can be purchased for $3 or $5 by emailing [email protected] For more information on Autism on the Seas visit autismontheseas.com/charliegrant.

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