Kymberly Martin

Coffee van serving up work experience for teens on the spectrum

When COVID-19 saw cafes and restaurants close in April, it also saw the suspension of a hospitality work experience for two Autism Queensland Brighton School senior school students.


However, help was soon at hand when teachers’ aide Leah Adam, offered the use of her commercial food van, as well as her hospitality skills and experience, to continue the program.

Known as the ‘Relaxation Caffeination Station’, it operates each Wednesday with Leah Adam working with Joshua Lollis and another senior year student providing coffees for staff at Autism Queensland’s Brighton centre.

With good hand hygiene and social distancing observed, each week the teens continue their barista and customer service skill development as they work towards their Queensland Certificate of Individual Achievement (QCIA) participation certificates.


Autism Queensland school principal, Cae Ashton said Adam’s quick and innovative thinking has allowed this important work experience program to continue while restrictions are in place and her van is not in use.

“Learning barista skills provides so much more than just making coffee. It’s also about developing customer service skills, the ability to work in a team, as well as some general measuring and math skills to accurately measure and mix all of the ingredients and create the drink the customer wants.”

Ashton said Lollis and his classmate would bring these skills back to the local café once restrictions are lifted and their work experience could continue.

Autism Queensland provides education and therapy services and supports for people on the spectrum from centres in Brisbane, Gladstone, Rockhampton, Mackay and Cairns. It also operates an accredited, independent school with campuses in Brisbane and Cairns.

Autism Queensland is also registered to provide supports to NDIS participants.

If your business or a business that you know may be able to assist with work experience, contact Natalie Smith on [email protected], particularly employers in Brighton and surrounding suburbs.

Image: Leah Adam and Joshua Lollis