Every month, a group of twenty or so individuals who are learning the importance of self-advocacy assemble at The Hope Center in Lancaster. Under the direction of Chairwoman Kristy Stepp and her fellow officers, the group - called Dynamite Abilities -  discusses times when they have had to advocate for themselves, and also times when they have had to advocate for others.

Their meetings vary from month to month but almost always include discussion of scenarios, examples of when self-advocacy was and wasn't used, and the positive outcomes that arise from speaking up for one's self.

The group is anxious to inform all people with developmental disabilities to follow their lead and is in the middle of a membership drive. If you or someone you know would like more information about the group, please call 740.652.7220, extension 3739.

EVERY Child Can Have an Outdoor Day Camp Experience Locally

   What started as a few casual conversations between Fairfield DD employees and local park’s managers has resulted into not one, but TWO, all-abilities outdoor day camp options being offered this summer in Fairfield County.

   Lancaster Parks and Recreation has created a more casual week of camp for kiddos of all abilities, ages 6 to 14. Nature classes, zany songs, outdoor activities, a dance, and creating friendships in the beautiful surroundings of Alley Park are just some of the memories campers will create.

   Called It’s a Camp Thing—The Red Camp, this new camp will offer two separate sessions, June 13 to 15 and July 11 to 13. Basic accommodations have been made to accommodate mobility and medical issues and counselor training is being provided by Fairfield DD.

   Geneva Hills, just a few miles south of Alley Park, also will open its camps this summer to children of all abilities. Their All Abilities Day Camp program is open to campers age 7 to 13, but children outside the age range may also be considered.

   Each camp is a week long and runs from 9 am to 3 pm.  Activities will include boating/kayaking, swimming, hiking, outdoor education, gaga ball, yard Yahtzee, crafts, team-building and more. A faith-based camp, Geneva Hills will offer camps for five weeks: June 5– 9; June 19—23; June 26– 30; July 10—14; and July 17—21. Aids, provided by the parents or guardians, are welcomed to attend at no additional cost. Accommodations for mobility devices, including a pool lift, are in place and Fairfield DD has taken the camp counselors through disabilities training. The cost for a week-long camp is $200 and includes meals and all materials.

   Both Alley Park and Geneva Hills offer special discounts for families with more than one camper. Additional services may also be offered so make certain to speak with an administrator before registration.

   Fairfield DD is not only encouraged to see the all abilities offerings in local camps emerging, but is playing a key role in the training of camp staff and administrators. Training includes basic information on disabilities, scenario discussion, questions and answers. In addition, Fairfield DD staff will be available throughout the summer to address any needs that may arise during the camps.

   “Every child should be included so they can all enjoy the rewards of summer camping,” said Fairfield DD Superintendent John Pekar. “We know it is vital to see every camper as a child first. At the same time, we know that children are different from one another. Inclusion means anticipating those differences—whether they are differences in ability or otherwise—and then planning to include all children. Becoming more inclusive is a proactive planning strategy.”

   Locally, the camps are filling up. In fact, Geneva Hills has reported that roughly half of their registered campers this summer happen to be children with disabilities. Though unprecedented locally, all-ability programming is being implemented more and more around the country. Fairfield DD believes this is essential if people with differences of any kind are to be “of” the community, not simply just “in” the community.

   Congratulations to everyone who has helped to create camps that are accessible to everyone. We wish you much laughter, much sunshine, and very few bug bites!

    Lancaster Recreation and Parks: 740. 687-6651
   Geneva Hills: 740.746.8439


Turning a Thinking Cap into a Graduation Cap

Alex and Carlos - The Graduates

Alex and Carlos - The Graduates

When Alex Woodall was in high school, he fell in love. He fell in love with the Spanish language.

   “I knew it was something I wanted to continue to study,” he said. “Initially my interest was in media but that market is too unsteady. With Spanish, there will always be job security.”

   Where to continue his education, however, was little more undecided. After hearing great things about Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, Alex and his parents made the decision.  “We knew that Wright State was academically a good school,” he said. “But just as important, we had been told by [numerous physicians and therapists] that it was an extremely accessible campus.”

   In fact, the year Alex enrolled, he was one of 18 students on campus using a mobility device.

   “That was a big thing for me, "Alex said. “The very first friend I made on campus was also in a wheelchair. He has spinal muscular atrophy. Then, together, we met another friend in a wheelchair. It was an important part of my success there—those friendships. When I was in high school, my dad used to tell me he was excited for me to go to college and meet other people like me. What he meant by that was, other people with disabilities. I had attended all mainstream classes while at Pickerington Central High School. Having a disability in common with another person was great.”

   Alex recalls one afternoon, as a Freshman on campus, he and his friends were hanging out in the dorm room when his friend dropped his phone on the floor.

   “Everybody in the room was in a wheelchair and we spent the next hour trying to figure out how we were going to pick up that phone. We tried everything—even a magnetic object retriever—but nothing worked. After a while we looked on my bed where my service dog Carlos was laying. We looked back at each other like, duh! Needless to say, Carlos retrieve the phone from the floor. It was covered in slobber but my friend got his phone back.”

   Carlos the dog stayed by Alex’s side the entire five and a half years that he lived in the dorm on campus. So when it came time to order a cap and gown for graduation, it only seemed fair that Carlos get one too.

   “The man from the bookstore took his measurements for the cap and gown and had them specially made for Carlos, on the house,” he said. “It’s great because Carlos is my arms and my legs. I have CP so he does a lot of retrieval for me. It only seemed fair for him to be dressed for the occasion too.”

   While Alex said some modifications were made to make his on-campus experience possible, his disability did not prohibit him from being able to travel to Spain in 2013 as a Wright State University Ambassador.

   “I was lucky enough to travel with other students and my dad to Spain for two weeks that summer,” Alex recalled. “The program was called Spanish Culture from a Culinary Perspective.  We literally ate our way through Spain.”

   Alex and his classmates traveled to Madrid and then explored smaller towns in Northwest Spain such as Ponferrada—where he enjoyed a disco; and the college town of Salanaca, where he stayed with a host family. His favorite dish? Tortilla Española—an egg dish with potatoes and onions.  (see below)

  For now, Alex is completing some job-seeking training from BVR and will soon begin the job application process in central Ohio. He dreams of being a Spanish interpreter, translator and proofreader. He says if asked by others with a disability whether to pursue an on-campus college experience, he would highly recommend it.

   “The hesitancy is understandable—by parents and their kids,” he said. “It’s not for everybody and it’s not a cakewalk. You have to be flexible in every situation, just as you want others to be flexible with you. But it’s totally worth it. I’m going to miss college a lot.”

Tortillas Espanola

1 1/2 c. olive oil

2 1/2 pounds potatoes, peeled and diced

2 1/2 cups chopped yellow onion

1 T salt

10 large eggs

   Heat oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderate heat until hot but not smoking and add potatoes, onion, and half of salt. Cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very tender but not colored, about 45 minutes. Drain vegetables in a large colander set over a bowl and cool 5 minutes. Lightly beat eggs in a large bowl. Gently stir in vegetables with 1 tablespoon oil, salt, and pepper to taste.

   Return 1 tablespoon oil to skillet and add mixture, pressing potatoes flush with eggs. Cook over low heat, covered, 12 to 15 minutes, or until almost set. Turn off heat and let stand, covered, 15 minutes. Shake skillet gently to make sure tortilla is set on bottom and not sticking to skillet. Invert tortilla onto a large flat plate and slide back into skillet, bottom side up. (Alternatively, especially if top is still loose at this point, slide tortilla onto plate first. Cover it with skillet and invert tortilla back into skillet.) Round edge with a rubber spatula and cook over low heat, covered, 15 minutes more, or until set. Slide tortilla onto a serving plate and serve warm. Is often served with an aioli sauce.







50 YEARS - Always There...

Forest Rose Bus in the 1960s

Forest Rose Bus in the 1960s

The Ohio Legislature created a unique and vital resource for people with developmental disabilities in 1967, and that resource continues to be a lifelong support 50 years later.

   Ohio’s County Boards of Developmental Disabilities are celebrating their 50th anniversary in 2017. The year-long theme — Always There — reflects the continuity of support, promotion of opportunity and history of partnership county boards have offered to the people they serve in the past, in the present and in the future.

   Locally, the first class for students with disabilities in Fairfield County began in 1956 in the basement of the Sixth Avenue Methodist Church. In 1960, the adult program was started. In the early 1970’s, the Association for Retarded Citizens gave the adult program to the County Board of Mental Retardation. In 1976, both the adult and children’s programs moved to Forest Rose School. Today, Fairfield DD serves nearly 1200 individuals and their families.


Movie Adds to Successful National DD Awareness Month

Every March is important to us at Fairfield DD as we honor National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. But raising awareness isn't about putting up posters within the walls of our own buildings. It's about reaching out to the community, engaging our neighbors and educating the public.

Dr. Amigo and Dr. Robitaille

Dr. Amigo and Dr. Robitaille

This year we did just that by hosting four community events in addition to the annual Celebration of Possibilities - an awards event that takes place the last Thursday of every March.

One of the most interesting events this year was the Free Movie Night we held on March 14 at Ohio University Lancaster. We were able to secure the rights to show a fascinating HBO documentary titled How to Dance in Ohio. This film follows a group of central Ohio teens who are on the Autism Spectrum as they prepare for their first formal dance. All of the teens are participants of Amigo Family Counseling's Respons·ability Social Therapy™ (RST), an approach centered on group therapy, in Columbus, Ohio.

Not only did movie-goers have the change to view this incredible film, they were able to meet and interact with Dr. Emilio Amigo himself as he participated in a pre-film discussion. Dr. Amigo's creative approach to working with individuals on the Autism Spectrum focuses heavily on encouraging people to engage relationships - something many on the Spectrum are often hesitant to do.

"I think every person deserves and needs to be a social creature, even when that person is looking me in the face and telling me they don't want to," Dr. Emilio Amigo said.  "A theory I have about Autism is that by the time someone is 18 years old, living with Autism, they are thousands, if not millions, of conversational exchanges behind their peers. By the time they are a young adult, they are so behind. Our work is to say 'It's not too late'." 

It was enlightening to hear Dr. Amigo address Autism in a unique way and if you were not able to attend the event, we encourage you to take the time to watch How to Dance in Ohio, which is currently playing on HBO. 

Our thanks to Dr. Amigo and to Mid Ohio Phsychological Counseling's Dr. Claire Robitaille for conducting the pre-film interview. The amount of expertise in the room was inspiring!

Teen Making a Positive Influence

   When the Pickerington Area Kiwanis club decided they wanted to focus their efforts to helping children in their community with autism, they began by asking parents of the children what the greatest need might be.

   “I was really surprised to hear, overwhelmingly, that the greatest need was respite for the family and caregivers,” said Kiwanis President and Pickerington Central High School Key Club Advisor David Stone. “That hadn’t occurred to me, but it made sense.”

   Partnering with the Coffee, Tea and Autism group that meets the third Thursday of each month at Trinity United Methodist Church in Pickerington, the Kiwanis group began asking students of the Key Club to provide child care and interaction for autistic children during the meetings.

   “The ultimate goal is that not only do parents get a break for an hour or so during their meeting, but that trustful relationships build between a teen and child that could result in a babysitting situation,” he said.

   Such was the case when 17 year old Key Club President Nicholas Gribben met seven-year-old Tristan during one of the meet and greet events.

   “We just hit it off,” Gribben said. “He’s a cool kid.”

Since meeting, Gribben has babysat Tristan multiple times. While that may not seem unusual to some parents, it was miraculous for Tristan’s mom Sara.

   “Tristan is an only child and he had never had anyone watch him other than family members before Nicholas,” she said. “Tristan just clicks with him. He doesn’t argue with him and he even lets Nicholas put him to bed—something he would never have let anyone do before.”

   When the two get together, despite their ten year age gap, they bond over Star Wars, books and occasionally art.     Nicholas likes to draw and paint and Tristan is a Star Wars connoisseur.

   “I never really pictured myself babysitting," Gribben Said. “But Tristan has no siblings and I felt I needed to do it. I knew it would be good for him.” Gribben has a younger brother on the spectrum and was not intimidated by any special requirements Tristan might have.

   And Sara is thrilled.

   “I’ve been to get my hair done, had a girls’ night out and even a date night,” she said. “It’s been great and, best of all, Tristan is getting more independent. He is doing things on his own and he thinks of Nicholas as a friend.”

Stone said he hopes more key club students will follow in Gribben’s path.

   “You know, we’re not as different as we all like to think,” he said. Kiwanians like to help kids in the community. This is really kids helping kids.”

   For information about the monthly meet and greet events, contact Julie Bruckelmeyer at 740-652-7220.