Providing a Path

Dealer’s School for Autism Helps People with Special Needs

December 20, 2016
 A Father’s Love – Throughout Jack Wolf’s life, his dad, Randy, has been there for him. And their bond is stronger than ever. Photos by Rex Curry
Jack Wolf, 19, was diagnosed with severe autism when he was 2-years old. From that point forward, his parents Randy and Kim Wolf knew it was going to be an uphill battle. The family moved from city to city—school to school—to help Jack find good teachers that fit his needs, even making the commitment to travel two hours via bus to get to a reputable school.
 
Enough was enough, so Randy and his wife Kim, alongside his brother Danny and father Dan, decided to take matters into their own hands.
 
So the three founders of the Dan Wolf Automotive Group built a school in 2007 that catered to severely autistic children. That school came to be known as the Turning Pointe CN Day School, working under their Turning Pointe Autism Foundation.
 
The school started with one student and one teacher but has now grown to capacity, and even has a wait list for people with special needs age 10-21.
 
“It quickly became apparent that two things were happening,” says Danny, dealer principal of Toyota of Naperville and board member of Turning Pointe. “One: The demand was a lot greater than what we had initially anticipated. The one-room school wasn’t going to work anymore. Two: The kids were getting older and we had to offer more than just middle school-level learning.”
 
With that in mind, the Wolf family purchased an additional building for high school classes and, later, added the Career College.
 
At the Career College, students gain hands-on working experience in mock work settings. Turning Pointe landed partnerships with Office Max and Walgreens, in addition to partnerships with dealerships under the Dan Wolf Automotive Group, which employs about 25 people with special needs.
 
Full Focus – At Turning Pointe, Jack Wolfe got the education he needed. In turn, hundreds of young adults with special needs have gotten the same. 

 
Danny says hiring these young adults helps fight the stigma that individuals with disabilities aren’t capable of working.
 
“Individuals with special needs—and it doesn’t have to be just autism—truly have the potential to be phenomenal employees,” Danny says. “I don’t think people give that enough thought or recognition.
 
“A lot of people work because they have to,” he adds. “But our students work because they want to. Having meaningful employment means everything to them.”
 
And that includes Jack, who is doing just fine these days, working at Lexus of Naperville two days per week.
 
Bringing Turning Pointe graduates onto the staff has positively impacted both customers and employees at the dealership. Danny says the team treats the young adults like family.
 
“It’s changed every employee’s perspective on special needs,” Danny says. “I think it’s taught them that life isn’t as bas they think sometimes. They get to work and think they’re having a bad day. Then they see someone like Ryan, who is nonverbal and works in the service lane, smiling and running up to people, giving out high-fives, and it instantly lifts everybody’s spirits. It’s truly amazing to be able to work with these kids.”

By Kaitlin Pennell

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