A Freeport non-profit is helping to strengthen life skills in individuals with Autism

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FREEPORT Fla. (WMBB) — A local non-profit is helping individuals with Autism and developmental differences through unique programs local restaurants participate in.

The Westonwood Ranch non-profit in Freeport helps to propel individuals with developmental differences into both their adulthood and the workforce.

“My hope and dream for every participant that comes through here, are that it is reversed and we see their ability before their disability,” said Westonwood Ranch Executive Director Kelly Cash.

Cash said technicians help to strengthen life skills, community, and social integration. 

“A typical day, it varies per individual,” she said. “They all have structure. We have a social skill group, we have a group that works out in the morning, every morning.”

Participants also help to feed animals on the ranch. Cash tells News 13, this helps to promote empathy by loving and caring for individuals. Once they learn this through animals, they transition those feelings to people. Individuals also learn life skills through micro-business models, which many local restaurants participate in.

“Currently, we have an aquaponics farm which is a 3,500 square foot greenhouse,” said Cash. “And we are producing lettuce and microgreens that we sell to businesses in our community, as well as we are starting a dog biscuit company called brew chews.”

These programs help transition from life skills into job training.

“Our first participant out here, he is currently 22-years-old and he is still in our programming, but he has since joining Westonwood been able to not only verbally communicate his wants and needs, but self-advocate for himself,” said Cash. “But he has transitioned into job training. His hope and dream are to be a ranch hand out on our ranch and we have already helped him to start working towards those goals with job tasks daily.”

Westonwood Ranch is starting a new liftoff program summer of 2021 for individuals with Autism and developmental differences. If you are interested or want to know how you can get involved, even as a volunteer, you can visit the Westonwood Ranch website and fill out an application.

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