adults with autism

Autism in the Workforce

Autism in the Workforce

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.

The Farmstead Model and Why it Works

Agricultural autism communities, or farmstead programs are not a new concept.  Programs of this type have been in the United States for several decades.  Two of the most well-known farms are Bittersweet Farms, in Ohio, and Innisfree Village in Virginia. They were both created in the 1970's and have served as the model and inspiration for others who have started similar programs in their communities. 

Instructors at Legacy Farms teaching the interns about harvesting.

Instructors at Legacy Farms teaching the interns about harvesting.

The farmstead model works very well. This is because the rural setting and numerous activities available on a farm provide a variety of therapeutic benefits that include:

  • Engaging in meaningful, purposeful work which creates a sense of accomplishment
  • Daily opportunities for physical and cognitive exercise
  • Allowing those who have been cared for the opportunity to care for and work in teams with others
  • Living in a quieter environment and a slower pace of life
  • Being involved in the seasonal rhythms of farm life

To better understand just how farming helps, try to imagine a typical day on the farm.  Depending upon the "farmers" interests and abilities, they could feed the animals, gather eggs, tend the garden, work in the greenhouse, bake bread,  and help with meal preparation. They learn skills they can use in the day-to-day farm operations or take with them to a job site. 

It’s not all work either, there would be plenty of time for recreation as well, such as music, art therapy, and physical fitness activities.  For those involved these work and recreational options are more appealing than those offered in an urban environment. 

The farmstead model is a community where participants live and work, incorporating daily and seasonal routines, while participating in meaningful vocational, recreational and community activities.  

How one Business Venture is Rising to the Occasion for Adults with Autism

Families of adults with disabilities are taking the business startup into their own hands.  People aren’t comfortable leaving the future in the hands of the government.  Long waiting lists for waivers, lack of vocational training, and limited opportunities are inspiring families to become entrepreneurs and ensure their adult children have a job.  Here is one creative, successful venture that sprung up in Parkland, Florida. 

 Rising Tide Car Wash, a scalable “conveyorized” car wash is the brainchild of John D’Eri and his son, Tom D’Eri.  Using John’s 20 years as an entrepreneur and Tom’s degree in Economics/Finance from Bentley University, a business was shaped for Andrew, their son and brother who has autism.  Andrew graduated from high school without many options for job opportunities.  It wasn’t that Andrew couldn’t secure a job, he was just at a disadvantage due to his disability. 

Andrew and other individuals with autism have unique strengths that could be used at a car wash. According to the Rising Tide website, “A car wash has favorable labor attributes for many people with autism. The car washing process is largely automated and the tasks are structured and easy to learn. While car washing is process driven by nature and therefore relatively repetitive, there are a variety of tasks that must be done including vacuuming, drying and polishing with some variation such as washing different types of cars. Moreover, many people with autism have a great eye for detail which lends itself perfectly to providing a quality car wash. ” 

Social skills are improved on as well.  Employees interact with the customers, which provides an opportunity for them to be involved with the community.   

Rising Tide Car Wash is the first company created by CanDo Business Ventures. CanDo is a company geared towards creating businesses that provide jobs for adults with autism.  John D’Eri started CanDo to create for-profit business opportunities that address the lack of jobs for adults with autism.  Rising Tide Car Wash is just the start.

“Each Rising Tide location will have high exposure in the community and provide employment for people with autism through easy to learn, process driven labor. Rising Tide will have strong enough profitability to support a community of people with autism through living wages, career advancement opportunities, independent living skills and self-advocacy training.” according to the Rising Tide Car Wash website.

People should become more aware of businesses like Rising Tide Car Wash and consider using adults with autism in their own businesses.  The advantages would be two fold; they would be providing an opportunity for a group of individuals that just need a chance to show what gifts and talents they have, and in return they would get loyal employees which, honestly is a rarity in today’s workforce.