LET’S GET OUTDOORS!
Jonathan Young, PhD, PE Managing Editor
A major theme for this issue of the Digest is encouragement for children and adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to go outside and exercise. Elizabeth Irish says to “Take a Hike.” Jennifer O’Toole welcomes her Asperkids to the Great Outdoors, to feel the sand between their toes. She knows what we, as human beings, do best is to “mess around with, poke, turn over, stroke, and generally ‘manipulate’ the real sights, sounds, scents, touches, and tastes that make up our world.” Temple Grandin counsels that the best way to prepare for a job is to put down the electronic screens for a while and learn social interactions by playing outside with your peers. Joanne Lara provides the central article for this issue of the Digest with the instruction to “Get Your Child (with Autism) Out and Do a Lot of Things!” She emphasizes that “getting out” not only expands a child’s knowledge and physical well-being, it can also result in jobs. Joanne describes six programs devised by innovative and caring groups that 1) invite kids and adults on the spectrum to experience the outcome of what they produce or do; and 2) offer jobs to those on the autism spectrum as part of their programs.
One of these programs is Danny’s Farm, which offers a nurturing petting farm with goats, sheep, mini-horses, and mini-sheep to focus on a social environment for children and adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other developmental disabilities. Jim and Cathy Gott created the facility because “Danny [Gott] always had a tremendous affinity for animals, and we were thinking of healthy ways that Danny could work and thrive as an adult,” says Cathy.
Danny and Jim Gott (a well-known baseball pitcher and coach) are pictured on the cover of this issue of the Digest. Cathy and Jim came up with the idea of Danny’s Farm ten years ago, which is when this picture was taken. Their program is a precursor of what more and more parents and siblings are doing, which is to create businesses that are particular strengths for those on the spectrum and to hire others on the spectrum to make it even more successful. Unfortunately, they have learned the hard way that someone on the autism spectrum—no matter their talent or prodigious knowledge— finds it almost impossible to get a job (with approximately an 80% lifetime unemployment record for those on the autism spectrum)! They’re trying to reverse that horrible statistic, beginning with their own kids.
We hope this issue will not only provoke your kids to get out and enjoy the world, we hope it will also give parents serious food for thought of what you can do or where you can go to help your child get a job, so he can live a fulfilled and, hopefully, independent life.