Mary Ann LaRoche: Love for Her Brother Inspires Autism Enterprise
According to the CDC, in 2020 1 in 54 children in the United States was diagnosed with an Autism spectrum disorder. April is Autism Awareness Month and wanted to share the story of one of our partner organizations SEEDs for Autism with you. Recently, there has been a larger push to make April not only Autism Awareness Month, but to promote acceptance of those with Autism. They can often feel left out, unaccepted, and once they graduate high school, forgotten. That is where SEEDs for Autism come in. SEEDs for Autism is an amazing local organization helping those with Autism go from learning to earning.
Mary Ann LaRoche founded SEEDs for Autism after realizing there weren’t many opportunities for those with Autism and special needs in general. She wanted to build an organization that helped rather than acted as a placeholder for during the day. SEEDs for Autism is a place for young adults with Autism to thrive and learn valuable job skills from interacting with coworkers to time management and other critical social skills. Through SEEDs, young adults learn everything from computer skills to social media, culinary, and even woodworking. Through the program, 25% of students have been able to find work outside of SEEDs for Autism while others continue to thrive within the social enterprise.
The students at SEEDs for Autism create many of Charity Charms products and we are thrilled to be partners with the organization.
Kay recently spoke with Mary Ann on the Power of Charms about Autism Awareness Month, Seeds for Autism, how they pivoted through COVID, and the future of their organization!
Click the video below to view their interview or click here to listen on Spotify
The Defining Symbol: Puzzle Piece
The Puzzle Piece is often associated with Autism and there are differing opinions on its acceptance and symbolism. But to Mary Ann, the Puzzle Piece symbolizes all of our connection and togetherness as human beings. Those with Autism often feel they don’t fit in or society doesn’t help them to fit in, and as we are all puzzle pieces in a much larger puzzle, we should be re-educating ourselves and being more accepting of others. The Puzzle Piece as a symbol has often been described as representing the puzzling nature of Autism. Whether you love it or hate it, the Puzzle Piece signifies our unity, how everyone has a place in this world, and the puzzle isn’t complete without all of its pieces.
Support SEEDs for Autism by purchasing their Puzzle Piece Necklace here or by purchasing a sterling silver Puzzle Piece charm from Charity Charms. 10% of retail sales of our Puzzle Piece charm will benefit SEEDs for Autism throughout the month of April.
About Mary Ann LaRoche & SEEDs for Autism
Mary Ann LaRoche began SEEDs for Autism in her backyard as a pilot program back in 2010. After years of watching her own brother Paul struggle with a lack of educational services post-graduation, she knew there had to be a way to develop both social and vocational training. She took her own business and trade skills (as a blacksmith/metal artist!) to develop a hands-on training program. She knew her nonprofit had to have a valuable connection to the community and it is important to build a consistent reputation of what those with autism can achieve. Today, the team at SEEDs is working on just that. According to Mary Ann, “That is why this relationship with Charity Charms is so important. It is a terrific way to engage the nonprofit world, with the commerce world, while giving a genuine value to the students at SEEDs.”
After You Listen:
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