July 29, 2014

seedsforautismPhoenix, Arizona -SEEDs for Autism is a non-profit organization that offers adults with autism training and employment in an environment suited to their needs. Mary Ann LaRoche is Metal Artist and owner of Bent, Hammered and Twisted. She was inspired to open Seeds for Autism after watching her younger brother, Paul Robert Foti, struggle in various menial jobs, working through sensory and social difficulties.

Paul was never able to find suitable employment that was at a level truly suited to his abilities, but he did enjoy building scenes, buildings, and other items for his train set at home. His creativity and love of building inspired Mary Ann to start an organization that would train adults with autism in artistic pursuits, along with practical and social skills necessary for employment.

She writes on the SEEDs website,

“SEEDs was to be the safe haven for Paul, and others like him who needed a place to continue to grow, learn, and be understood, into adulthood. A place where failure didn’t exist, and oddities were a benefit, not a blunder. I wanted Paul to be given the opportunities he deserved.”

Unfortunately, Paul was never able to enjoy the fruits of his sister’s labors. He passed away from pancreatic cancer two months after SEEDS opened. His legacy lives on through the adults with autism who are learning various skills and enjoying consistent employment through the program.

SEEDs currently employs several artists in various specialties, including woodworking, jewelry-making, ceramics, weaving, and welding. Participants are trained in various specialties, and build products that are sold on the company’s website at www.seedsforautism.org. Products are varied, and include items such as jewelry, plates and bowls, candles, and home and garden products.

Participants in the program learn several crafts, including jewelry-making, sewing, metal-working, mosaics, glass carving and sandblasting, concrete sculptures, fiber sculptures, painting and assembly. Other skills include working with others, improved hand-eye coordination, adapting to mistakes, and exposure to the social structure of a workplace.

Parents of the young adults participating in the SEEDs program share their enthusiasm on the SEEDs website. One says,

“As a parent of a budding young artist on the autism spectrum, I am very happy with the SEEDs program: SEEDs not only gives my daughter something to do over the summer, but it is something that she loves dearly – art.

“Our reality is that our children have very few options – we are very grateful that SEEDs exists, and we are looking forward to what it will become in the future.”

To find out more visit their website here.

About the author 

Laurel Joss

Laurel Joss is a freelance writer with a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education. She worked as an RDI® Program Certified Consultant and has published articles in Autism Spectrum Quarterly and on her blog www.remediatingautism.blogspot.com. She is a mother to two children, one of whom is on the autism spectrum. You can also follow her on https://twitter.com/speaking_autism and https://www.facebook.com/speaking.autism.ca

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