By Gena Somra, CNN
Guilford, Connecticut (CNN) -- Tom Pinchbeck never dreamed he'd turn his family rose farm into an employment center for people with autism.
In 2008, faced with a sagging U.S. economy and fierce international competition from South American rose growers, Pinchbeck found himself priced out of the market. He had no choice but to do the unthinkable -- close the farm started by his great-grandfather.
Shortly afterward, a college friend of Pinchbeck's, Jim Lyman, approached him with an interesting proposition. Lyman was looking for a way to address the very real problem that many young adults with autism, including his own son, Eli, face: How to transition successfully into adulthood as they grow beyond the cutoff age of built-in state benefits and supports.
"Lyman approached me with the idea of using the greenhouses as a background for vocational therapy for people on the autism spectrum," Pinchbeck says. "I was still reeling from having to close the place down, and it seemed like an interesting way of putting together a really unique program from the ashes of Pinchbeck's Farm."
Now Pinchbeck is working with the group Ability Beyond Disability
to put a dent in a staggering statistic: the group says 88% of American adults with autism are unemployed.
"Our program is really designed for people to come into the program, to learn the skills they need and to help place them in their community, help them find a job, hopefully find a career, and really be a productive member of society," says Joan Volpe, Ability Beyond Disability's vice president. "That's really the goal of Roses for Autism
is for folks to be a part of a work life that we really take for