Those on the autism spectrum can affirm, through their own experiences and discussing with their peers, that each individual’s life with autism is different from the next. Though we maintain a basic understanding of how one’s brain may differ due to their diagnosis, it truly is a spectrum. This mother from North Carolina was able to find what works best for her son, and he’s proven to be quite talented at it.
Working with animals and in nature is proven to have a positive impact on all of us. A 2019 study states, “Natural environments have been shown to reduce stress, increase the ability to focus attention, increase curiosity, motivation and commitment to learning situations; and increase opportunities for physical and emotional activity through playful activities in nature.” This study focused on how utilizing all of the benefits nature provides us can oftentimes help people, and particularly children, on the autism spectrum.
Rebecca Sorensen, whether she knew of the potential benefits or not, created an educational, natural environment for her son to work in. She opened Blawesome Farm, a flower farm in Chapel Hill, after her son’s school shut down in 2015. Raimee, who is now 24, has autism and epilepsy, and he has been working on the farm full-time for the past four years.
“One of the things that is really important to me as a social worker and a mom to Raimee, was finding something that he was really good at, but that would showcase his skillsets, that he could be a representative of folks with autism to the community,” Rebecca explained.
Raimee operates Blawesome Farm with Social Care Farmer Lauren Blythe, and the two have been working together for years. “I’ve taught Ray every flower is different, every stage of harvest is different, every way to plant stuff can be a little different, spacing is different, and over the years, I don’t need to go and re-teach him that,” Lauren explained. “He learns it, he remembers it, and he does a really great job at it.”
Raimee has his own house on the farm, where he lives with his caregiver. He and his mother hope to hire another person on the autism spectrum that can also live with Raimee, allowing the pair to grow together in independence and develop their skills working on the farm. Both Lauren and Rebecca feel that engaging in purposeful, delicate work such as flower farming allows Raimee to develop a closer connection with nature.
“Just because someone has a disability, it doesn’t mean they can’t work really hard and be amazing at what they do with the right support,” Rebecca continued. She feels that Raimee is able to use this connection with nature as a bridge to friendship and future relationships, and is hopeful that Raimee will continue to find growth and joy in his work.
Be sure to check out Blawesome Farm’s official website for more beautiful flower arrangements. If you feel inspired by Rebecca and Raimee’s story, consider signing this pledge to make time for yourself and rely on your village for help with your loved one on the spectrum.Whizzco