To promote the inclusion and acceptance of adults with autism in their local communities by establishing environmentally exemplary farm centers that provide meaningful work, healthy and peaceful residences, and community interaction.
Exemplary Farm Centers
OASIS tlc has created a model that involves local and state governments in the purchasing or leasing of property for farming. This simultaneously supports town open space initiatives and offers a source of natural, wholesome food for the local community to purchase. Additionally, farm centers provide housing, employment, and volunteer opportunities.
People with autism are naturally in tune with the rhythm of nature and the seasons. Farming and agriculture are connected to the calendar as well. People with autism are concrete thinkers and farm work provides almost immediate, tangible results. Partnering with neurotypical coworkers provides natural opportunities for therapeutic interventions.
People with autism are over-stimulated by the pace of society today. They also have special health needs. Farms and open space offer peace and stimulation from natural sources that are real and therapeutic for everyone involved. Using sustainable and environmentally responsible practices is healthy for everyone in every way.
This idea provides a vehicle for volunteerism and education for the community as a whole. Farm centers are set up as examples of "green" living which are open to the public to observe. The establishment of local community-supported agriculture systems (CSAs) is something that anyone in the community can choose to participate in.
The philosophy behind OASIS tlc is one that embraces human beings for their interconnectedness to each other and all living things. We believe that it is through work, personal exploration and our relationships with others, and nature, that we realize our full human potential. Given the challenges of autism, we see the local farm setting as an ideal place to achieve interdependence and social connectedness.
The concept of meaningful work is paramount to personal fulfillment. We all need to feel needed and we all need help at times. Individuals with autism are no different. They have the same human needs. They do not want to feel constantly dependent on others; nor do they want to feel useless. Therefore, it is important that our farm center be perceived as a service provider in two ways. One, the centers will provide the service of continuing education and housing for people with autism. Two, the individuals with autism and their co-workers will provide the community with healthy food and visible examples of sustainable farming and “green living.”
We hope to inspire others to open centers like ours nationwide. Not only do they serve people with autism, but they provide a service to their local community. Most importantly, OASIS tlc hopes to provide encounters between people that foster positive human growth through nature and the acceptance of human differences and the realization of the common ground we all share.
The History of Oasis tlc
An enduring, evolving story…Impact OASIS, now OASIS tlc, was a sister organization to I.M.P.A.C.T. (Improving Middletown’s Program for Autistic Children Together). IMPACT was formed as a 501 (c)(3) tax exempt organization in the year 2000. The purpose of incorporating was to be able to raise money to assist the public school system with the development of an appropriate educational program for the increasing autistic population. Besides lending funds, IMPACT members worked tirelessly to increase awareness and educate the public about autism and how it affects children. IMPACT officers took an active role at school board meetings and joined numerous important committees to learn how to skillfully encourage people to accept the challenge of educating children with autism.
The realization of imminent adulthood and the end of educational entitlement for autistic individuals fostered a dream to create farmstead communities for autistic adults to live and work on. Refocusing on this project caused OASIS tlc, (Ongoing Autistic Success in Society) to be born. OASIS tlc is a 501 (c)(3) public charity and was incorporated in September 2007. We worked closely with the local government, a county agency and the state of New Jersey to put funds together to purchase our first farm. We also leased 7 acres of farmland and began a horticultural program. Many young volunteers, community members and autistic individuals took part in this.
Members of the Middletown Township Committee, the Mayor, Monmouth Conservation Foundation, NJDEP Green Acres, and NY/NJ Baykeeper have been completely supportive and helpful to us in our endeavor. With the help of our first capital campaign, we were able to close on our first farm in 2011. The facility is surrounded by land purchased by the state, county and Middletown Township for public use. The portion afforded to OASIS tlc is central to this land. It is here that we are operating the first step of our farmstead model and manage the transitional program for young adults with autism.
We believe, as parents of autistic individuals, that the peaceful farm setting and the closeness to nature is a truly rewarding and therapeutic work environment for these challenged individuals. We also feel strongly that there is a need for the public as a whole to think about how we treat our environment. We look forward to having our children and their peers teach others the importance of conservation, good nutrition, the humane treatment of animals and the benefits of good outdoor physical labor.