BRIDGETON, N.J. (CBS) – They’re digging in, literally, and learning about horticulture in New Jersey. On World Autism Awareness Day, Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health Vocational Program taught autistic adults new skills with plant therapy.

Autistic adults, working with plants, gained new skills designed to eventually get them working in the community.

It’s time for spring planting as the pansies are out at Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health Vocational Program in Bridgeton.

Adults with autism and other developmental disabilities are not just learning about horticulture, they’re building confidence and self-esteem.

“The most important goal is to teach them different types of tasks they can do that are transferable to job-related skills or to help them become more independent,” Heather Janci, vocational manager at Devereux Behavioral Health, said.

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Rochelle Hasenberg is the horticultural therapist.

“They’re learning to be patient,” Hasenberg said. “They’re learning to work as a group, but they’re also learning to work individually. Those are skills you need for any job.”

Janci said each thing that they do takes multiple steps.

(Credit: CBS3)

It’s to have them understand where the plants come from.

“How to maintain them, make sure they’re growing larger,” Janci said. “It’s also a really great team-building opportunity for them to work together.”

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David Peters, 63, decided to name one of his plants, “Jane.”

Jane and her friends will eventually be sold after they help teach some important life lessons.

“If you do it the wrong way, they won’t grow,” Peters said. “I enjoyed it.”

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It’s not all about flowers.

The program also works with herbs and other plants like tomatoes that are used for spices and food.

From the horticultural program, Devereux will help those people transition into appropriate jobs.

Stephanie Stahl