OASIS tlc provides a four-year transitional program for young adults 18-27 with autism to learn the skills necessary to live independently. One new area students are helping out in is with a new 33-foot geodesic dome greenhouse recently added to the property on Sleepy Hollow Road.
MIDDLETOWN — Oasis tlc, a local nonprofit that serves adults with autism, is growing and plans to expand its farm-centered vocational program to include small, sustainable organic farms.
“We’re turning people away, so we need to expand,” said Mai Cleary, president of OASIS tlc (Ongoing Autistic Success in Society) Transitional Residential/ Adult Independent Learning (TRAIL) Center.
“The concept is we have this farm school and we want to preserve other properties locally that’ll just be permanent farms so whoever likes the farming life we can move them to that more permanent farm,” she said.
“More activity will take place [at OASIS] than will at the other places, but it is about giving these guys a long scheduled day with lots of breaks and meaningful work to do.
“They feel good about … doing something that supports the program.”
OASIS tlc acquired the 25-acre Coe Estate on Sleepy Hollow Road in August 2011 through a partnership with Middletown Township, the Monmouth Conservation Foundation and the NY/NJ Baykeeper.
The circa 1871 estate was purchased for $2.9 million, with OASIS tlc contributing $1 million raised through donations and Middletown contributing $900,000.
The remainder of the funding came through $1 million in state Green Acres funds, of which $650,000 was allocated to the township, $100,000 to the Foundation and $250,000 to the Baykeeper.
According to Cleary, the township retains ownership of the estate’s 18 acres of open space, which she hopes will soon become a park and will be used for passive recreation with walking paths and sitting areas.
One new area students are helping out in is a new 33-foot geodesic dome greenhouse recently added to the property.
“This is the most energy-efficient greenhouse on the market,” Cleary said. “It requires little to no heating since it relies on natural power from the sun and provides students with additional employment skills through their tending to the different crops and herbs we have in it.”
OASIS tlc provides a four-year transitional program, both residential and day, for young adults 18-27 with autism to learn the skills necessary to live independently.
These include social skills, such as conflict resolution and conversational skills, as well as independent skills such as meal preparation, healthful eating and living choices, housekeeping and paying bills and budgeting.
“These guys can’t really go to college, and after 21, there is not a lot for people with autism so we provide that for them,” Cleary said.
Part of the daily routine is for the students to feed and tend to the animals, which include chickens and goats, learning animal nutrition, care and behavior.
“Some people with autism are more affected in their visual sense, some are more affected in their sense of hearing and what we are trying to do, everyone tries all the skills, then we figure out who is good at what so that by the time they are in here for their fourth year we try to find them a parttime job and then place them on a permanent farm,” Cleary said.
“What we are finding also is that the organic farming animals are so nice for these students to care for and makes it really cool for them.”
The day program runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., but for an additional fee, day students can join the students who live at the farm in afternoon activities, which include music and art lessons.
“What we’re finding is that when they know how the day is going to go and know what is going to happen when and where … everybody’s not anxious and they actually are the greatest workers, but it also forces social engagement over a long period of time [and] that is what we are seeing the most success with is that these guys are getting used to having to talk to people,” Cleary said.