Adults with autism face significant hurdles when looking for employment. Even those who are considered “high-functioning” have difficulty understanding the “soft skills” that help people navigate the social world of the workplace. Research shows that many adults with autism are unable to find or maintain employment, and are relegated to living with their parents and collecting disability. In 2009, Roses for Autism was launched from the last family-operated rose farm in New England, Pinchbeck Rose Farm, partnering with the non-profit organization Ability Beyond Disability. Tom Fanning, president and CEO of Ability Beyond Disability, says,
“Today, Roses for Autism provides opportunities for employment and post-secondary education for individuals on the autism spectrum, and others with similar presentations. We are a resource to families, schools, and employers.”
The Career Training Program offers support to both individuals with autism, and to employers who are interested providing opportunities for them. Services include assessment of skills, interests, and abilities, development of an Individualized Career plan, help with resumes and interview skills, and on-site job assistance. They also offer training in specific job skills, such as computer training, and in the “soft skills” that are often so difficult for people with autism to understand. These include things such as being on time, proper grooming, and understanding topics of conversation that are and are not appropriate for the workplace. The program also offers assistance to local businesses who are willing to hire individuals with autism, helping them to understand the kinds of difficulties that may arise, and putting accommodations into place that can help their employees be successful. These may include things like allowing the employee to wear sound-cancelling headphones, or being understanding of social gaffes that might otherwise lead them to fire an employee. Autism spectrum disorders are diagnosed in 1 in 88 children, and the rate continues to rise. The unemployment rate for adults with autism is 25-50%, and the underemployment rate is even higher. These numbers are expected to grow, as the many children who were diagnosed over the past two decades start reaching adulthood. There are currently few services for them once they age out of the school system, but programs like Roses for Autism could offer a model that would help many achieve independence and a higher quality of life, as well as reducing the burden on state and federal social programs. Many people with autism have amazing skills and talents that offer great value for employers, but they need extra training and understanding to learn how to navigate the social logistics of the workplace. Tom Fanning says,
“Our vision is that Roses for Autism will serve as the flagship for a replicable autism transition and employment model that can be duplicated in a variety of business environments. Roses for Autism is unique in the opportunities we offer to individuals on the autism spectrum. We hope to expand our model to other businesses and geographic regions.”
For more information about Roses for Autism, see their website at www.rosesforautism.com.