HALIFAX – A program for autistic adults in the HRM has now expanded into a popular Halifax destination.
The Promise of a Pearl program, which is run by Autism Nova Scotia, can now be found at the Seaport Farmer’s Market, a move that is meant to expose participants to business in the real world.
The program teaches autistic adults the ropes of the retail world, including making jewelry, taking inventory and selling the goods. It started one year ago with three participants. It now has 15 people enrolled with a wait list of 10 people.
Victoria Cutler, 25, has autism and hopes the exposure of the farmers market better prepares her for a real job.
Autism Nova Scotia executive director Cynthia Carol says that the market creates a sense of community for the autistic adults.
“It’s now teaching those customer service skills, retail skills that they can take wherever they’re moving on to in community-based employment,” she said.
Cutler agrees, saying the market is giving her a chance to meet new people.
“It’s also providing me with new employment skills,” she said.
Organizers believe the expansion will further develop participants’ job skills and make them more employable.
“They’re learning social skills, customer service skills that are used in any type of job,” said Chelsea Degiobbi, an employment coordinator at Autism Nova Scotia.
Carol says that having structured programs in controlled settings are helpful for autistic adults but moving participants out into the community allows them to use and hone the job skills that they have developed.
Participants like Cutler, who hopes to work in historical archiving one day, believe the new venue will provide her with an invaluable experience.
“We’re getting into the tourist season now. I get to meet lots of different people, some from many different countries,” she said.
Proceeds from the sales of Promise of a Pearl jewelry goes back into Autism Nova Scotia to support programs and services.
The expansion into the farmers market is permanent, says Carol. The booth will be at the market every time a cruise ship docks as well as from Friday to Sunday.