Friday, July 20, 2012

Farming and Technology Programs for Teens and Adults with Autism and other Developmental Disabilities.

For the second year in a row, CBS2 and KCAL9  hosted a resource fair called “Stephanie’s Day.” It was started by CBS2 and KCAL9 President and General Manager Steve Mauldin in honor of his daughter, Stephanie. The event was in my neighborhood so I ventured out in search of new resources devoted solely to life skills and vocational training for tweens, teenagers and young adults.   
Donna Ross Jones and Dr. Pam Wiley

It was great to see friends who offer an array of fantastic support and programs for our kids, like Ellen K. Reinstein, L.C.S.W.,& Ellen Pearlman of Cheerful Helpers (, Dr. Barbara Firestone, founder of the “Help Group”(  and Dr. Pam Wiley, author and founder of Los Angeles Speech and Language ( 

Yudi Bennett and her Exceptional Minds Team
As I wandered the fair with both my kids, in tow, it became strikingly clear how limited the options would be for Nicholas post high school. There were only a few vendors committed solely to programs insuring young adults with autism remain active, learn vocational and life skills. 

On the upside there were two groups who were very exciting!!!  "Exceptional Minds Studios" and "Farming Independence."  Both ideal for me because Nicky loves animals and the computer. “Exceptional Minds Studio,” created by the wonderful Yudi Bennett, is a non-profit  animation studio for young adults on the Spectrum with a vocational center and summer camp.  (See their web site:  They are dedicated to helping young adults with ASD who have a passion for graphics and animation learn skills that can be transferred to the work force.  This could be a real option for Nicky I was also introduced to Farming Independence and their “Go Wild” summer program, another perfect fit for my young man who loves animals. The participants ages 16 to adult get to grow and create things on the farm, which they later sell. The program activities include everything from animal husbandry to culinary arts.  (Their web site:

I also got a chance to talk to a group called CCI, short for Canine Companions for Independence. Very exciting.  They train and provide service dogs and cats!
I'll post more about them later.

There's no doubt we need many more options, nonetheless it's great to see these people jumping in and offering options for our kids. 


  1. Thanks, Donna. I'm so glad for this information!

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