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Grateful CT Mom Sees Son Thrive Thanks to Roses for Autism

By Roses for Autism

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After gaining valuable work experience at Roses for Autism in Guilford, Ben Lifton, 21, of Branford, was able to get a job at the Olive Garden restaurant. Ben's mother, Debbie Lifton, is grateful to the non-profit organization for giving Ben the social skills needed to maintain employment and have a brighter future. (contributed photo)
GUILFORD, CT - Like every proud parent at high school graduations across Connecticut this June, Debbie Lifton of Branford will cheer for her son, Ben. However Lifton has even more reason to celebrate, because not only will he receive a degree, Ben, who has Autism, will also have a job thanks to the experience he gained at the Roses for Autism program in Guilford.

“I feel very blessed that Roses gave Ben the opportunity to blossom,” said Lifton. “The changes in Ben were astounding. He thrived - becoming surer of himself, talking more, and willing to participate in work activities, even if it was with some grumbling.”

Lifton explains that Ben likes to grumble about everything, or say that he does not care. Luckily the staff at Roses for Autism saw beyond the words and paid attention to the actions. The actions showed he cared deeply, hated criticism, and he only complained to hide his fear and anxiety. He was praised for things he did and the grumbling just became background noise.

Roses for Autism, in conjunction with its parent company, Ability Beyond, helps young adults with Autism discover their unique strengths and learn the skills necessary to obtain meaningful employment and achieve their goals. The comprehensive curriculum offers individualized instruction in social dynamics, real world academics, life skills, and career training.

Ben was accepted into the Roses for Autism program part time as part of his school day in 11th and 12th grade. After 12th grade, he attended the Step Forward Program at Gateway Community College in New Haven, designed for students on the Autism spectrum who are academically qualified. Now in his final year, he is back at the Rose’s program.

During Ben’s time at Roses for Autism, his duties have included waiting on customers at the retail store, working on inventory, and he is one of the few employees who is allowed to use the rose sorting machine. Additionally, he worked at the Guilford Creative Arts Center during the summers as an assistant to the art teacher for 5 and 6 year-olds.

“A favorite story of mine was that once Ben was helping the children at snack time. One of the children did not like whatever they had put in their mouth, and Ben put out his hand and said ‘its ok, you can spit it out in my hand’,” laughs Lifton. “He never would have done that before. He hated talking to people.”

It wasn’t long before extended family members of the Liftons also started to notice and comment about how outgoing Ben had become. He engaged in conversation, asked appropriate questions of others, and participated more with family at gatherings.

“Ben has gained the social skills needed to get a part-time job at the Olive Garden as a dishwasher!” exclaims Lifton. “He also continues to take a class at Gateway. My son has a bright future thanks to Roses for Autism.”

Roses for Autism is a 501(c)(3) non-profit social enterprise whose mission is to foster meaningful employment for individuals with Autism. Since 2009, Roses for Autism at the historic Pinchbeck Farm (RFA), in partnership with its parent company Ability Beyond, has helped over 100 individuals with Autism gain valuable hands-on work experience. Located on 38-acres in Guilford, CT, the largest heated greenhouse in America grows and sells a variety of fresh cut flowers including roses, lilies, and Gerbera daisies. Proceeds from flower sales and its exclusive Ardent Rose perfume fund scholarships and career training for transition age students with Autism. Visit www.rosesforautism.com.

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