Long Island company specializes in hiring workers with autism

PORT WASHINGTON, Long Island (WABC) -- Seven years ago, a woman started a company so her son with autism could work for himself -- now, she employs more than 20 young adults on the autism spectrum.

When Stella Spanakos' husband died suddenly in 2010, she was left as the sole parent for their child Nicholas, who has autism.

"We always talked about our son's future. It was very uncertain," Spanakos said.

Spanakos sold her husband's business in the Garment District of Manhattan and piloted a screen printing business in 2011.

She thought it was a job Nicholas could do. It started in a barn behind her house in Plandome Manor.

Now Spectrum Designs does more than $2 million in annual sales, works out of a 7,400-square foot facility in Port Washington and employs 21 young adults with autism -- the majority of its workforce.

"If I could give every person with a disability a job. I would," Spanakos said.

The company does custom screen printing, embroidery and digital printing for businesses locally and all over the country. Several supervisors monitor the employees.

"I think all individuals have the right to work and the right to live up to their most full potential," said Dave Thompson, a supervisor.

Employee Josh Mirsky has been working at Spectrum Designs for the past year and a half. He told Eyewitness News reporter Kristin Thorne he likes having a job.

"I don't like to have to piggy back on other people for money," he said. "I want to pay my own way. I don't want to be part of a system."

Spectrum Designs co-founder Patrick Bardsley said the company hopes to hire about 30 more people with autism to work at the facility in Port Washington,

They're interested in adding locations on Long Island and possibly Westchester County.

On Saturday, Signature Premier Properties is hosting a fundraiser walk for the Spectrum Designs Foundation at Centennial Park in Floral Park.

The free walk is from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Participants are encouraged to donate to Spectrum Designs Foundation. To learn more about Spectrum Designs, click here.

* More Long Island news
* Send us a news tip
* Download the abc7NY app for breaking news alerts
Copyright © 2022 WABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.