Autism friendly urban farming in Chicago IL
Urban farm helps students with autism

Life skills are among the valuable lessons that children can be taught at school. Among these lessons is always agriculture, which is a vital part of our urban environment.  This is what is happening at the Growing Solutions Farm, a 1.2-acre farm situated on the west side of Chicago.

This exceptional farm serves as a learning hub for students aged between 16 to 22 years old who are enrolled in the Chicago Public High School and are transitioning into adulthood while facing challenges related to autism and other developmental disorders.

At the farm visits

During the farm visits, students acquire valuable skills in urban agriculture such as crop cultivation, food handling practices, building raised plant beds, preparing soil, tending compost piles and harvesting and preparing food for sale farm, technically all farm maintenance practices. These skills increase their chances of future employment and pave the way for a fulfilling life.

The farm operations manager, Tucker Kelly, emphasizes the importance of this program that caters to the needs of young people with disabilities by providing them with essential services and job opportunities.

Tucker elaborates that the Growing Solutions Farm, which originated as a pilot program for Urban Autism Solutions, not only cultivates over 70 different types of vegetables, fruits, and herbs but also nurtures personal growth and integration into the community for these young adults. Sometimes left with limited options after aging out of the school system, young autistic adults may face loneliness and detachment without community.

However, with the farm’s holistic approach, they are actively involved in every aspect of farming, developing valuable skills, building relationships, and finding a sense of purpose.

Other Life skills

There are other life skills not directly related to farming but they still acquire them at the farm, for example, learning to follow instructions, communicate efficiently with team members and superiors, handle multiple tasks effectively and see them through completion.

Kelly, a spokesperson for the program, emphasized that their focus is on developing transferable occupational skills that can be applied in various job settings. In this case, their main goal is to prepare participants for employment at grocery stores. As part of this process, participants are expected to adhere to company policies by wearing a uniform and demonstrating professionalism through simple gestures like greeting upon entry.

On top of that, Kelly stressed the importance of students looking out for each other and helping their peers in need. It is considered a great achievement as an educator when students are equipped with enough skills to teach and support one another.

Autism Treatment

Aside from the initiatives being undertaken in Growing Solutions Farm on the west side of Chicago to support Autistic children, there are also other organizations in different states that are advocating for the accessibility and affordability of this crucial treatment.

We at Illinois Autism Center are devoted to providing top-notch therapy services, spreading autism awareness, and pushing for insurance coverage for individuals with autism and their families.