Millions of people are scrambling to order flowers for their sweethearts on Valentine’s Day. This year Roses for Autism is one special flower business that stands out among all the others. Started in 2009 by Jim Lyman, a man with experience in the agricultural industry, Roses for Autism is the first endeavor for Growing Possibilities, a nonprofit founded by Ability Beyond Disability. Their goal is to encourage independence in the business world for people with autism and other disabilities.
Jim Lyman visualized a future that would include a meaningful job for his son, Eli, a teen with autism. Lyman consulted with local farmers he knew about his idea for a program that would meet their needs for qualified workers and would give people on the spectrum the skills necessary to join a competitive workforce. Roses for Autism was soon created and now serves as a model that can be followed nationwide to develop unique opportunities for people with disabilities to gain employment.
Tom Pinchbeck, head grower for Roses for Autism, had been forced to closed his farm in 2008 due to foreign competition. Pinchbeck Farms, a wholesale rose operation, had been started by his grandfather and great grandfather in 1929. Lyman, a college friend of Pinchbeck’s, approached him with a proposition that would make Pinchbeck Farms’ roses available to the community again. People with autism would be able to learn employable skills at Pinchbeck Farms by taking inventory of the roses, boxing orders, and shipping them. Now there are 16 varieties of roses, three kinds of lilies, and multiple colors of Gerbera Daisies grown by Pinchbeck Farms for Roses for Autism. The flowers are grown year-round in heated greenhouses in Guilford, Connecticut.
Roses for Autism’s Career Training Program is open to students beginning at age 16. The program uses “six essential elements of success” to gauge where each participant is on their path to employment. An initial screening evaluates job readiness; there is also vocational assessment, exploration and work exposure. Other elements are Employment Readiness Training (in agriculture, retail/customer service, or e-marketing/information technology), Transitional Work Training, Job Search and Placement. Roses for Autism gives “Follow Along Support” as well.
For more information about Roses for Autism, visit their website or call 203-826-3072.