Every year, approximately 50,000 people with autism graduate from the school system. That’s as large as many US cities.
In Solano County, California, Jeanine Stanley wants to bring to fruition a ranch that would give some of these young adults a place to go. When her son Ben was diagnosed with autism at age 3, Stanley did not know where to turn since so little was known about asd.
“You end up teaching the teachers,” she told the San Jose Mercury News. “We had to be the pioneers.”
The involved Lafayette mother spent the remainder of her son’s career in school researching all the best therapies and ensuring he received the best treatment possible in order to ensure his academic success. The question remained, however, as to what would become of him when school was completed.
To address this issue for her son and others like him, Ms. Stanley has been working with other advocates to fund a ranch in Fairfield where autistic individuals can apply their talents into practical work. Named after her son (whose middle name is Walker) the property is being referred to as the B. Walker Ranch.
Young adults with autism have are often praised for their ability to focus on independent tasks. With about 1 in 68 people being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, few programs exist that help channel their abilities. Around 70 percent of these adults suffer from unemployment or underemployment.
Stanley thought back to her own childhood experiences working on a commercial flower farm with her family, and the idea for the program was born. It is her aspiration to connect with autistics who have little direction in their lives, and work with them to determine their strengths. They are then matched with tasks on the working day ranch in order to give them a sense of purpose.
Each participant will have the program tailored to suit their strengths and needs. Tasks include making jam, pulling weeds, and fixing equipment like tractors. Individuals on the spectrum often excel at repetitive tasks and seek detailed organization.
The creators of the ranch not only aim to provide structured work for the participants, they also want to use these tasks to teach problem solving, valuable work skills, and coping skills. The ranch will also provide art therapy and occupational therapy.
The 10 acre property lies just west of Fairfield and was gifted to Stanley’s organization by a benefactor and includes a 19th century house and barn. They have secured a 99-year lease so ensure the program’s longevity. The California ranch is located near bus and train transit lines. The organizers of the B. Walker Ranch hope to begin with 25 workers.