New Castle Lawn & Landscape finds success with autistic employee

Brad Stephenson, CEO of New Castle Lawn & Landscape. (Photo: LM Staff)
Brad Stephenson, CEO of New Castle Lawn & Landscape. (Photo: LM Staff)

Brad Stephenson, CEO of New Castle Lawn & Landscape, believes that everyone deserves a chance.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, autism affects an estimated 1 in 36 children in the United States. Stephenson feels strongly that people with autism or with mental disabilities should get opportunities to have careers. He took this matter into his own hands at New Castle Lawn & Landscape and did some investigating.

”With kids and adults with autism, the state cuts off their funding once they hit the age of 21,“ Stephenson says. ”For me and my entire team, we wanted a program where we could bring those members in and train them to work at New Castle.“

Discovering Corey

Last summer, the initiative led to the discovery of Corey, a senior at the John Paul II Center for Special Learning in Shillington, Pa. Following a recommendation from one of his coaches, he began working at New Castle as an intern. He works six to eight hours every Wednesday. After graduation, he will be brought on as a part-time employee.

“Our goal has been to get him around to all of the different crews and see what he likes to do for work,” Stephenson says. “Corey has a wonderful attitude. Nothing gets him down. He refuses to say he can’t do something.”

Stephenson believes that a positive attitude is a core quality at New Castle. He says that Corey’s mindset is contagious to everyone around him. He says Corey always smiles as he works.

Giving chances

The willingness to give chances comes from his own experiences. Stephenson says he struggled as a student in high school.

“I was in that same boat,” Stephenson says. “Guidance counselors would tell me I wouldn’t do anything with my life. I wanted to prove them wrong, along with all those who turned their backs on me. There are too many people out there who are not given a chance.”

Stephenson has served as CEO for New Castle in Birdsboro, Pa., for 18 years. New Castle offers build/construction, landscaping, mowing and lawn applications. They currently have 84 employees. Their service mix is 50/50 commercial and residential.

The initiative is planning to add virtual reality into the training program. This is to help autistic employees become familiar with the basics of work in both the industry and at New Castle.

“Robotics are here to stay,” Stephenson says. “We might as well start using them in small increments.”

Making the path forward

Months later, Corey is still employed at New Castle. Stephenson says that he recently had his team of supervisors trained in de-escalation tactics for people with intellectual disabilities.

Stephenson believes that a story like Corey’s is inspiring and one that many people can learn from. Not just about giving people a chance but reminding them about the support they will receive on their journey.

“From watching Corey and seeing his story unfold, I hope people learn that if they put their minds to something, they can do it,” Stephenson says. “Once someone finds the right person, instead of putting their heads in the sand, it helps to keep them moving forward. For Corey, it is all about hearing ‘yes’ and not listening to the people who tell him ‘No.’”

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