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Christian Royal Pottery

Christian Royal Pottery

Christian Royal's love of pottery began as a new activity to try as part of his homeschooling. Before long, Christian's parents, Mike and Helen, had purchased several hundred pounds of clay and were learning the craft with him at the kitchen table. Word of Christian's talent spread, one connection led to another, and Christian Royal Pottery launched after he was invited to sell his pottery in an art gallery in Charleston, South Carolina.

"[Customers] all are taken by the fact that an individual with Down [syndrome] has produced such beautiful pottery," Mike says.

Christian’s mother, Helen, is proud of the involvement Christian has in making each piece. "He performs all steps in making pieces except to mix chemicals, which requires math… and safety precautions," she explains.

Pride in employment

Both parents speak of the pride Christian finds in having a full-time job.

"He's never met a person with a disability who doesn't wish he or she could work and make a paycheck and enjoy the satisfaction that comes from that..."

"Kids with intellectual disabilities get a lot of services up to the time they turn 21 and graduate from high school," Mike explains. "Then the services all but dry up and there are very few jobs for them." He says he's never met a person with a disability who doesn't wish he or she could "work and make a paycheck and enjoy the satisfaction that comes from that. But most can only find work one or two days a week and often that is only for four hours a day."

At 21, Christian has difficulty communicating. Mike and Helen share their sadness that he really hasn’t been able to make ongoing friendships among his peers. "He would love to have friends and companionship," says Mike, who says he regrets that the family didn't learn sign language as Christian was growing up.

Think outside the box

With the success of Christian Royal Pottery (more than 3,500 pieces have been sold), the family has been able to hire two additional workers.

Christian Royal Pottery

"Christian's business gives him the opportunity to do something he loves every day and to enjoy the camaraderie of the two associates who work with him every day until 5 p.m.," Helen says.

"If Christian could find the words, he would encourage all parents of children with disabilities to think outside the box about what talents their children might discover about themselves if only given the opportunity to try various crafts or vocations," Helen says.

It's clear that Christian's happiness and productivity bring his parents their own sense of well-being and peace. "[Christian] is funny, oh so lovable and we listen for his humor throughout the day," Helen shares. "He has his own gift of noticing beauty everywhere and reflecting that beauty in his artwork."

Next up: Read about Tim Harris and his restaurant

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Comments on "I have Down syndrome and run my own business"

Maureen Wallace September 09, 2013 | 6:01 AM

Rachel - what an interesting comment! In my case, I'm always way over my poor editors' word limits, so using "individual" vs. "man or woman" is all about word count. But I'm tucking this thought away for the next time. Can you share any additional context to why it means more? Thanks for sharing!

rachel cooper September 09, 2013 | 2:59 AM

I promise I don't mean this to be a criticism, but I'd really love to see the words 'man' and woman' used, instead of 'individual'. PS. I've had the same experience of the impact on the workforce of employing young people with IDs. Young employees sometimes have that "you're so lucky I show up" and "work is so boring" approach. Bring in a few awesome young men and women with IDs who are honestly enjoying themselves- it changes everything.

Maureen Wallace September 06, 2013 | 7:53 PM

Kerry, thank you so much for your kind words, but most importantly, thank you for operating a business that has opened its eyes to the benefits of employing individuals who happen to have a disability. Thank you, also, for opening your hearts and your doors. I will go out of my way to shop where I know inclusion and diversity aren't just mission statements but realities.

Kerry Bertram September 05, 2013 | 9:06 AM

Thank you for the wonderful article. I know Tim and have visited his delicious restaurant many times. It was refreshing to read about Charlie and Christian as well. Our small business, Stride, Inc. has been employing adults with special needs in an integrated setting for 33 years. I can attest to Mike's statement, "I've never met a person with a disability who doesn't wish he or she could work and make a paycheck and enjoy the satisfaction that comes from that." I'll further contend that they are the BEST workforce an employer could ever have. The joy they have each morning is always contagious! How many bosses hear "thank you for giving me a job," every morning?! A quick search on Facebook found all three of these young men have their businesses listed, I encourage everyone to like their pages and follow them!

Maureen Wallace September 03, 2013 | 11:46 AM

Kelly, I agree! That said, it's so nice to have a little moral support from hearing about these successful and inspirational individuals... it can be tough to imagine such a productive future when I'm working each day to help my 3-year-old son learn to speak. This article helped remind me that we have so much more in store for us!

Kelly September 03, 2013 | 11:26 AM

The next generation of kids are certainly going to make their mark on the world as stereotypes and assumptions are broken down. Most parents of kids with Ds expect their children will live at least semi independently and work at something they enjoy. I have purchased a piece of Christian Royal's work as a gift. It was so beautiful I wanted to keep it for myself!

Maureen Wallace September 02, 2013 | 2:50 PM

Awwww, now I want to see pictures of your 2-year-old, Cori Anne! I know I've spent too much time worrying about my son, Charlie's future. I need to take a page from these amazing parents' book and just let his loves and interests evolve. Good things will happen if we support what Charlie wants! Best of luck to you and your little one, and thanks so much for posting!

Cori Anne Richardson September 02, 2013 | 12:45 PM

I very much appreciated this article! I too have a young daughter of just age 2. It is inspiring and encouraging to read about other's successes! Andrew lives just 20 minutes away! We had a great visit this summer with him and his Mom Karen! Please keep up this kind of article! Thank you once again!

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