West Side Produce Farm works to provide people with autism with life skills | Chicago News

Growing up with autism can be difficult, but with the right support, children can live healthy, fulfilling lives. The One West Side organization works to empower young adults with autism to learn life skills.

When it comes to agriculture, 21-year-old Alejandro Sanchez knows what it takes to grow vegetables.

“Teamwork. Like people can watch your back and help each other out,” Sanchez said.

Alejandro Sanchez has been involved with the Growing Solutions Farm for three years.

“People grow vegetables here and donate to people who need vegetables at home,” said Alejandro Sanchez.

The 1.2-acre produce farm is a hands-on program that teaches young adults like Sanchez the basics of farming with the goal of improving their social and job skills.

The farm is part of Urban Autism Solutions, also known as UAS, an organization that Julie and Michael Tracy started when they struggled to find adult services for their son, John, who has AD. autism.

“The pain our family went through when we sought services, and we knew we were going to have to support John and create a community of like-minded people around him,” Julie Tracy said. “A compassionate community where he could work, where he could thrive and grow.”

The organization recently celebrated its 10th anniversary and gave former participants like Elvis Sanchez a hunt to show off what they’ve learned.

“I’m having a great time doing this,” Elvis Sanchez said. “I’ve never planted before and this is my first time planting, so I’m watching and learning how to do it.”

Elvis Sanchez started the Growing Solutions agricultural program last summer and has since learned skills to prepare for job opportunities.

“We learn about interviews, how to prepare for an interview, how to dress well,” said Elvis Sanchez.

UAS also partners with different schools on the West Side to offer a variety of free services to support young adults ages 16-22.

“We really provide skills that we think schools don’t have time to learn in terms of social work services, social reflection and communication,” said Julie Tracy. “So our students can be successful once they get their first job.”

The founders claim to have helped hundreds of young adults find employment and motivate them to pursue their goals.

“I wanted to be an FBI and then I changed careers. People need a mental health counselor, and I have a mental health counselor who has helped me a lot and they inspire me,” said said Alejandro Sanchez.

Elvis Sanchez says the program gave different alternatives for feeling independent and meeting the challenges of his disability.

“I have struggled since I had a disability. I said to my mother, ‘Why was I born like this?’ said Elvis Sanchez. “I should have been born normal. I cried, but my mother said it was good that I had a disability. I realized and something changed that I should be proud of who I am as a person.

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