Every year 50,000 adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) transition out of high school and into the workforce, yet the unemployment rate grows faster than any other disability. It seems there is a major disconnect concerning adults with ASD and employment, and the resources needed to help are limited.
Currently, local organizations provide a wide range of services that assist people with disabilities in finding jobs in: the retail industry, direct mail, and office and warehouse assistance. As autism becomes more prevalent in today’s society (1 in 68 children as of 2014), the need for new services grows more and more each year.
- According to the Center for Disease Control, About 1 in 68 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
- Almost half (46%) of children identified with ASD had average or above average intellectual ability (IQ greater than 85).
- According to a state-wide study conducted in Florida in 2008 by The Center for autism and Related Disabilities (CARD), approximately 67% of the 200 families of 18-22 year old with autism surveyed did not have knowledge of transition services; 73% indicated they needed help with their job; 63% need help with daily living; 78% do not know of agencies or professionals who can help them find work; and while 74% want to work, only 19% were currently working.
- The most recent statistics state 75-85% of adults with autism are either underemployed or unemployed within two years of leaving high school.
Legacy Farms hopes to help lead the pack in providing the skills and resources to help change these stats locally. Our programs provide a place where people can gain the valuable work experience and absorb the knowledge they need to get real jobs at local farms, vineyards, nurseries, greenhouses and more. We do not have waiting lists for our services, provide them free to those in need and do not require Medicaid coverage for our services.
Our programs are as unique and extraordinary as our clients them selves. This year, Legacy Farms plans to broaden our services through the fall at the farm, and a winter program is still in the works.
"We hope to provide an opportunity for our clients to "Put it All Together" and share the work they've done in our greenhouse, at our events and in the garden, with local employers," Patrick Cox, Interim Executive Director explains, " That way, they can show off a little and show Loudoun just what it is we do at Legacy Farms, hopefully helping them to land a few more jobs and create new relationships within the local agribusiness and agritourism community."
Our programs so far this year include:
- A Spring Program: Here, clients will learn and participate in the transplanting of the seedlings we grow in the greenhouse into the garden at Temple Hall Farm. This is a 5 week program and is already on our 3rd week. We welcome anyone who is interested to come out and spend a few days in the garden to determine if the Summer Program could be a viable option for their family member.
- Our Summer Garden Program: In it's third year of operations, The Summer Garden Program is expanding. This 10-week program is designed to generalize the participant to the farm environment by teaching them what tools and resources are available on a farm and how to use them, while gaining a greater understanding of the different types of plants and planting methods used in a garden/farm. Individuals with autism will learn job and interpersonal, relationship-building skills through hands-on vocational training that is customized to support each participant’s abilities, current skills, goals and needs.
- The Fall Festival and Produce Program: The Fall Program is a 10-week continuation of The Summer Garden Program with additional learnings focused on event planning, setup and operation. Agritourism is a growing business in Loudoun County which includes the many events held at the local vineyards and breweries along with The Farm Fall Festivals that happen every October. As Legacy Farms prepares for our own Fall Festival, students will gain firsthand knowledge of what goes into preparing for such an event and take part in its planning and success.
We have decided to not charge for our programs this year. We realized many just could not afford it, and instead we are asking for donations to cover the cost of staff, resources and other operational costs. We plan to reach out to local business to help support these needs and have a sponsorship program outlined that will ensure anyone willing to give a little to ensure we continue to operate as smoothly as ever, will get a lot back.
If you, or your organization is interested in supporting our program or sponsor one or more of our paricipants, please email our Interim Executive Director, Patrick Cox at firstname.lastname@example.org. He will gladly meet with you to go over our program. We have a page dedicated to those who have helped in the past, "Friends of the Farm" and will contine to add on as more local business step up and help us help those in need.