According to the National Longitudinal Transition Study 2, a 10-year project designed to monitor a national sample of students who in 2000 were in special education,  66% of youth with autism spectrum disorders had worked at some point after high school. However, when surveyed a few years later, only 47% of these youth had jobs. 

The Problem

There are several theories why adults with Autism struggle maintaining employment. Adults with ASD and other developmental and social issues face a broad range of challenges. Each person presents their own individual set of characteristics:

  • Social skills
  • Behavioral
  • Sensitivities
  • Emotional
  • Linguistic/language development
  • School related
  • Health/mobility

This makes it difficult to provide the right working conditions or offer the best tasks a potential employee may be able to manage or understand.

In our case, one may love working in a garden, but be uncomfortable speaking with strangers. Another may be uncomfortable handling dirt, but have the skills to plot a companion garden as if they were a seasoned horticulturists. Still others may love the outdoors, yet be terrified of birds.

In other cases, the environment is the issue, “Sensory overload causes problems for many adults with autism. The fluorescent lighting and noise from other workers may make it impossible for them to work a full day in such an environment. Long-term employment, therefore, is often difficult for adults with Asperger’s and other diagnoses on the autistic spectrum,” says Dena L. Gassner, MSW, director of the Center for Understanding and an advisory board member to the Autism Society of America.

Most organizations just don’t have the time, money or resources to fit the needs of such a wide range of challenges.They may be unaware that many adults with disabilities have job coaches that work alongside of them, to ensure they are  meeting expectations set for them by their employer. 

The Solution

That's where we can help. We work closely with each individual participant, discovering their strengths and weaknesses and then develop an Individual Training Plan (ITP) that speaks to those attributes. Once they are ready we reach out to the local agriculture community and properly place them where they can do the most good. Once a match is made, we work to provide a job coach, proper on-the-job training and follow up to ensure they are meeting expectations.

Seeding Virginia with Hope

Our “Seeding Virginia with Hope” campaign is dedicated to placing Legacy Farmers throughout Virginia, beginning with Loudoun County. There are currently over 1400 working farms in the county. Our objective is to work closely with these commercial farms, vineyards, breweries and nursery's in Loudoun and see how we can come together to create jobs. We realize this is a very ambitious goal, however in order to make change sometimes it takes a more enterprising approach to raise awareness and get people talking. We hope that by beginning this campaign we will turn heads and get people working on other solutions as well.

We have already begun working with several farms and vineyards in the area such as Tarara Winery and Sunset Hills to develop a curriculum and put to work our first batch of recruits for our pilot program, the 2015 Summer Garden Project. This is just the beginning, however we need a full time home to continue.

Currently, we are operating out of Temple Hall Farm in Leesburg, Va. However this is only a temporary solution as our board members can only offer their time during the summer. We are ready to do much more we need a home. Currently, there is a farm with 7 acres in Purcellville, Va. for lease, and the owner is willing to hold it for us for a short period of time. The farm is perfect, there is a barn, pasture and land for farming and it’s zoned for agro-educational and commercial use. We have met with the Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) and learned much of the land is perfect for growing grapes and hops. It provides an amazing opportunity for us to help a lot of people, however we need help making it happen.