Cupcake business empowers young adults with autism

At least once a week, you can find Michael and his closest classmates-turned-friends baking cupcakes inside Patty Castrogiovanni's home in Westbury.

"I started with them as a part-time job," she said. 

It was a part-time job in the Carle Place school district that became full-time. Patty was the teacher's assistant inside the classroom with young adults, who all have different abilities, for the past 14 years. The students graduated and Patty retired. But not for long. 

"We're like a little family," she said. "We didn't want to see the day we wouldn't be together."

Patty decided to open her heart and her home. The mother of three started a nonprofit to continue the life-skills lessons learned in school and keep the students connected. 

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"We're together five, six days a week, and every day is a new adventure," Patty said. 

And their biggest adventure yet is baking. The group launched a cupcake business dubbed Special Sweets. Together they bake close to 200 cupcakes a week and sell to friends, family, and on social media. Generous donors have already helped with space and supplies. 

The ultimate goal is to move out of the house and into a space for their own day program with the kitchen and maybe even open a Special Sweets cupcake café. 

"I love seeing the joy and pride that they take in this," she said. 

Patty doesn't do it for the money — she said it's her calling. 

"If they weren't with me, I don't know where they'd be," she said. 

But she no longer has to worry. She found the perfect recipe for the sweets they bake and for all of their success.