OUR STORIES WITH AUTISM
The Autism diagnosis he was given rushed us in a new world I never knew existed. The more I learned about this disorder and its challenges, the more I realized my story resembles that of hundreds of other families in San Diego. Just when I felt I am on my own, trying to navigate this world of uncertainties and continuous struggle, I found myself surrounded by other caregivers, wanting exactly what I want and longing for it the same way I am.
We all aspire for our children to be happy and accomplished in life, with or without special needs. Nevertheless, when Autism is involved, prejudices and lack of understanding make these aspirations almost impossible; the vast majority of adults on the Autism Spectrum live in group homes and do not actively contribute back to their community.
Even the lucky ones who found jobs when they age out of the school system will soon leave their jobs due to worsened anxiety and constant rejections. Sadly enough, we advocate so much for increased awareness and inclusion, yet, we expect those impacted with Autism to integrate in our social norms with absolutely no accommodation. We train them to fit in the mold we created and we reject them as soon as they fail. We have no problem showing our irritation by the fact that a large and increasing number of adults with Autism require continuous support yet we don’t allow them to provide for themselves.
My dream is that this reality will change !! Just as we tailored school programs to allow for learning opportunities for children with autism, why not create small businesses tailored for them when they age out of the school system? Why not allow them to continue to actively participate in their communities?
This will be a labor of love and it will only be possible with your YOUR contribution!!! Please donate !!
Nick was born with a rather rare genetic disorder called Williams Syndrome. He was diagnosed at 3 months of age. Williams syndrome is caused by a microdeletion of genetic material on the 7th chromosome. It results in a constellation of developmental delays that include learning disabilities, low muscle tone, heart anomalies and struggles with visual-spatial tasks such as writing and drawing. On the plus side people with Williams Syndrome often have sunny, friendly personalities and a love of music. Nick displays many of the above characteristics.
After graduating high school Nick worked at a Preschool for several years. Part of the time he was a volunteer and he was also paid for several hours a week of work. Nick did not love working with little ones but he enjoyed the other teachers and aides and was well known at this school. Nick loves making and spending money so he rarely complained about this work. Once COVID started spreading, the Preschool closed down. When it did reopen they limited the number of aides in the classroom. Nick was unable to return to this job. He really struggled with finding employment that was the right fit for him. He was bored and somewhat lonely for over a year. In January of 2022 Villa de Vida started a program for meaningful work and volunteer work 3 days a week. One of the work sites they secured was at Blissful Seeds. Nick enjoyed the program and loved what he was learning at Blissful Seeds. At the end of the 3 month program he was hired to do the resin work for Blissful Seeds.
There are so many ways Nick's job at Blissful Seeds has changed and improved his life. Getting a job offer from Rita was something he is very proud of. He loves that he can do his job independently. He is thrilled when people compliment his work. Nick is more confident since starting his employment at Blissful Seeds. He feels competent and enjoys talking about the work he does. He loves getting paychecks and is currently saving for a deep sea fishing trip. This job has provided structure and purpose to his life and ended the isolation he had been experiencing. He hopes to be producing resin crafts for Blissful Seeds for many years to come.
Laura Imthurn (mom)
Abel & Genet
Our family hails from Cincinnati with Ethiopian roots, and two years ago we made the leap to move to the beautiful San Diego. Abel wasn’t always a carefree, ball of energy as many know him to be. At the time, accommodations and resources for children with autism were scarce and rarely available. Pairing that with my own confusion as a parent of where to go and what to do next, Abel struggled with behavior problems that caused him to move from school to school.
Every new school came with push back from school administrators who were unfamiliar with how to treat autistic students, and reduced them to “troubled kids”. It was hard for them to see the entire picture of a child who wasn’t given the opportunity to interact with his peers and be understood. His behaviors, such as running away and acting aggressively, were a response to his oftentime high-stress environment.
It seems like I spent every other day going into school offices and settling grievances with teachers that I never allowed myself to unwind, which affected my ability to be the best parent and wife I could be. I learned the hard way, that frantically spending all my energy reserves wasn’t healthy nor the solution to his problems. I learned to value peace and balance and spent more time with my son. Moving to San Diego, we were able to explore and experience even more memories with my family, while finally finding the support I need. But there aren’t simple happy endings. I refocused myself into looking for an independent and happy future for my son. Though San Diego—I’ve noticed— is more accepting towards individuals with autism, I still worried that he would have a hard time being self-sufficient in a workspace or be discriminated against.
I found many different parent groups who have kids with developmental disorders and met a friend who introduced me to Blissful Seeds. I love the idea and it gave me hope for Abel's future. It became a family effort and we were all involved in helping Abel make the products, being there at the Farmer’s Market, and having lessons from his ABA sessions about social interaction with customers. We saw a lot of excitement and progress with Abel, along with his new skills in customer service and handling money.
Blissful Seeds gave him a chance to thrive and an opportunity for him to shine. Blissful Seeds is a place where Abel feels that his work has value and is being compensated for it. The confidence that working at Blissful Seeds has given my son is invaluable and has provided me a big step towards his goals in the future.
Zoe was born with ADHD and Autism. However, it was a long and difficult road to find this out. Though she is kind, cheerful and loves making friends, she had a hard time finding them due to fear of putting herself out there for fear of rejection due to her differences with other people in her age group.
She has an Associate degree in theater from Grossmont Community College that she is very proud of. Her love of being theatrical leaks into multiple aspects of her life. From her interest in mythology, love of DnD, and tendency for silly greetings; Zoe is a vibrant person to be around.
Zoe first came to learn about Blissful Seeds through a pilot day program with Villa de Vida. When the pilot program ended, she was thrilled to be asked to become a regular employee.
Unlike all other jobs that Zoe previously worked, Rita Saliba of Blissful Seeds gave her the opportunity to work with other employees on the shift. Zoe was nervous about this at first but grew to really love it. She was given a chance to find out what tasks at Blissful Seeds she enjoyed the most. When she realized it was making jewelry, Rita put her in charge of this aspect of the business. This made Zoe feel recognized and valued. Zoe is completely in charge of creating the design for the jewelry she makes and Rita is always there to tie the bracelet together and offer praise. Zoe looks forward to working more with Blissful Seeds in the future. It has boosted her self esteem and helps her feel connected with the community. She loves that “what I do matters.”