“Being an adult with autism, I do not know the word ‘normal.’ But to me, SARRC means hope.”
This is Ryane, a Phoenix resident, who was diagnosed with autism when she was 5 years old. She was 28 when she came to Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC) due to its trademark social enterprise program, Beneficial Beans, an initiative designed for adults with autism. With a passion for gardening, she wished for a job at a local nursery, but didn't feel confident with her resume to pursue an application.
Many adults with autism are capable of becoming employed, but don’t have access to environments that will teach them to be successful once on the job. Possibly the biggest challenge facing these individuals is social interaction, so in order to address this challenge and other barriers, SARRC established Beneficial Beans®.
One component of the program is a 12-week internship where interns can choose to work in one of two of the Beneficial Beans businesses, the Café or Garden. It’s within these businesses that vital job skills are gained through the help of staff and clinicians who work individually with adult interns.
When Ryane learned of SARRC’s various internship opportunities, she immediately gravitated to a garden internship. As a garden intern, she learned industry practices like planting, caring for and producing fresh produce. Ryane also learned the necessary social skills to thrive in a working environment like when to take a break, making eye contact and how to appropriately talk to supervisors and address customers.
SARRC’s urban garden, which is situated in the backyard of our 16th Street campus, features a variety of vegetables, a chicken coop, and a Community Supported Agriculture program giving interns a chance to interact with customers. During their three-month internship, interns also learn essential life skills.
“I learned how to work with others, job search, take the bus, how to dress up for an interview and present myself… so that I can gain a job, earn a paycheck and learn to live on my own,” Ryane says.
SARRC is proud to report that in 2016, nearly 75 percent of our clients secured and maintained meaningful, competitive employment in the community—compared to an estimated 10 percent employment rate for adults with autism nationally.
We’re also pleased to report that Ryane landed her dream job at the local nursery.
Outcomes like this are huge for the community, but our work isn’t done. Our commitment to advancing the lives of individuals with autism and their families is driven by the positive impact we know we can continue to make.
“SARRC is that hope we need to make it through and live independently,” Ryane says.
Stories like Ryane’s are what motivates SARRC to continue its mission of providing a lifetime of services and support to the autism community. This year, SARRC celebrates 20 years and in that time we’ve become an internationally-recognized nonprofit organization working tirelessly to build a more inclusive community. We are continually driven by the positive impact we can make on the lives of individuals with autism and their families.