Earth to Autism promotes sustainable business

Earth to Autism promotes sustainable business

Leanne Scalli, PhD, founder of Earth to Autism.

Local businesses looking to become more eco-friendly can turn to the non-profit Earth to Autism for help.

Incorporated in July 2017, Earth to Autism exists to help adults living with autism to find and maintain meaningful employment opportunities in green industry jobs.

Founder and Board chair Leanne Scalli, PhD, says the organization serves two of her own passions: environmental preservation and helping adults balancing their lives on the autism spectrum.

The website Autism Speaks informs that, “Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication. According to the Centers for Disease Control, autism affects an estimated 1 in 59 children in the United States today.”

“I have a cousin with a diagnosis on the spectrum,” shares Dr. Scalli, “and I’ve been working with people with autism since 2003. I worked with the New York Center for Discovery, an agricultural program that exposes participants to all aspects of farm life. I was a school psychologist in New York, and I was immersed in developing individualized plans to help children and young adults with autism diagnoses. The Center for Discovery was an invaluable resource for me.”

When Dr. Scalli moved to Florida, she planned to work in a similar capacity, but was surprised to learn that no similar program existed here.

“There’s a great need,” she observes. “The area is home to a lot of families with young adults on the autism spectrum who have graduated from high school. They’re worried about what happens next, because there is a lack of adult programming for those aging out of school-based resources. Earth to Autism not only provides a viable option for helping secure meaningful work, but also serves as a link to other programs that can help individuals and families.”

Dr. Scalli explains that Earth to Autism takes a person centered approach, designing a tailor-made program for its participants that addresses needs in professional development, business development, sustainability/environmental impact awareness, transition planning, and job coaching. There is no cost to the individual to participate.

Despite her long involvement with supportive programs, Dr. Scalli realized her professional expertise wasn’t enough to make Earth to Autism effective in the community. Recognizing the truth in the adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” she looked for ways to develop partnerships in the community, and found the Treasure Island and Madeira Beach Chamber of Commerce.

“I was searching Facebook, looking at posts by, for, and about other non-profits,” recalls Dr. Scalli. “I saw a notice posted by Becky Burton (a Chamber account executive) talking about how supportive and affordable this Chamber is for groups like Earth to Autism.

“I visited the Chamber’s Facebook page and website,” she continues. “I was excited to see that the Chamber actively supports its members on social media, and when I read about the Chamber’s EPIC program for encouraging businesses to protect and preserve the environment, I was really impressed.”

Earth to Autism became part of the Chamber in January 2019, and has already taken advantage of the Chamber’s online event listing to promote a recent fund-raiser.

Adds Dr. Scalli, “The real benefit to us in joining the Chamber is the opportunity to network with a wide range of businesses. Earth to Autism is designed not only to help adults living on the autism spectrum, but also to help our businesses. With so much interest in developing sustainable policies to protect the environment, Earth to Autism is a resource for businesses who want to hire employees with specific knowledge in sustainability.”

To learn more about Earth to Autism’s program, call or text Dr. Scalli at 727-710-0649 or email

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