Roses for Autism
Beyond teaching technical workplace skills, Roses for Autism can dramatically improve a person’s social skills. The program is designed to encourage teamwork and interaction stressing the importance of cooperating with coworkers and supervisors in a business setting.
Lori Gregan, retail operations manager for Roses for Autism, explained that participants are encouraged to show initiative and has been pleased that most are eager and willing to try new things, even if initially reluctant.
“They really want to be here,” says Gregan, who shared several stories that illustrated the dramatic changes that participants undergo during their time on the farm.
She recounted one young man who refused to make eye contact with anyone for weeks when he started the program. Out of the blue, he asked to work the front desk where he would interact with customers. Another day when Gregan, overwhelmed with constant phone calls, was holding a phone in each hand, he gestured to take one of the phones and capably handled the call. From then on, he took phone orders and handled customer questions.
One of the remarkable aspects of the program is how often participants can go through a physical transformation, both in demeanor and in dress. There can be dramatic changes in their interactions with other people as well. Most participants have gained significant self-confidence, and many students have seen their grades rise as well.
One young woman arrived at the farm having worn only dresses and skirts for her entire life. She simply refused to wear pants. While that was fine for front desk work, she was told that, if she wanted to work elsewhere on the farm, pants were required for practicality and safety. The next day, the young woman showed up wearing pants, ready for a new challenge.
In addition to learning new job skills, the program familiarizes participants with more mundane or commonplace aspects of the workplace such as using a time clock or handling the state-of-the-art touch screen cash register, which is similar to those found at other business establishments.
While many of the benefits for participants are tangible and heartwarming, Roses for Autism is fundamentally a business They grow and sell roses—as many as 800,000 this year alone. Although Roses for Autism applies for grants and welcomes corporate and personal donations, the sale of roses, lilies, potpourri and dried floral arrangements is critical to the success of the program—just like any other business.
Roses for Autism is a fully functional rose farm complete with more than 50,000 square feet of heated glass greenhouses. The farm produces 16 varieties of roses and 3 varieties of lilies. Their roses have two inherent advantages over roses from afar. Firstly, customers know that they are receiving a homegrown product that supports a worthy cause and, secondly, the roses retain their natural fragrance. Many roses are now imported from South America. Although cheaper, these roses are bred to survive transit and extend life in a vase, while sacrificing fragrance Roses from Pinchbeck’s farm, which are cut fresh daily, retain a distinctive and pleasing fragrance that distinguishes them from the competition. They also last longer than their imported competitors, by as much as two to three weeks if they receive proper care.