Happy to Help!


If you’re feeling a little lost, you may need to seek out Trevor Arnold. He can not only help you find your way, he’s bound to put a smile on your face while he’s at it.
   Trevor, 25, recently received an award for reaching 2,000 hours of service from Fairfield Medical Center where he volunteers every Monday and Wednesday at the South entrance.  A graduate of the ProjectSEARCH curriculum at FMC, he has been a smiling member of the volunteer team for years.
   “It was a good fit for him since he knew many people already,” said Trevor’s father, Craig Arnold. “Just about everyone knows Trevor.”
   Trevor said after finishing his ProjectSEARCH program, he didn’t want to leave FMC.
   “I’m gonna tell you something,” Trevor said. “Everybody likes Trevor. They like the way I say ‘Hi’. They do—yes.”
   And with good reason. Trevor knows his way around the hallways at the hospital, which can be confusing for first-time visitors. He not only tells guests where different departments are located, he takes them there himself.
   “I take people to rooms, the elevator, x-ray and to their appointments,”  he confirmed. “I’m a rock star.”
   And speaking of rock, Trevor prides himself on being a connoisseur of 80s rock music.

   “He absolutely loves 80s music and can tell you 95% of the time the title and artist of any 80s pop music,” Craig said.
   In addition, Trevor likes to watch ESPN, cheers on the Buckeyes and is hoping to receive certification for customer service positions.  He and his parents are currently working on ways for him to earn money so that he can afford to live independently in an apartment of his own.
   “Volunteering has helped him live a more fulfilling life by gaining independence, confidence and the experience of doing things on his own in a work environment; and social interactions—like taking a bus, using and handling his own money,” his father said.
   But for Trevor, it’s much about social interaction.
   “I love the people, yes,” he said. “And they love me because I’m so special.”




Artist in Residence Brandon Muck took third place in the VSA Accessible Expressions Ohio 2019 Art Show in Columbus last month. His work, (right) is a portrait done in pyrography.
   ”I have a dog named Baby,” he said. ”She’s the one who can make me feel better when I’ve had a bad day, listens when no one else will or just hangs out when I don’t want to talk. Often I think she’s the only one that ‘gets me.’ This is why I feel guilty putting her in the cage when I leave for the day. She gives me this hopeless look as I walk out the door to the same schedule I play out every day—also known as, my cage.
   Brandon’s work will tour the state of Ohio throughout 2019. Fellow artist Kayla Council also was accepted into this juried competition and will have work included in the show’s tour.

October is National Developmental Disability Awareness Month

Courtney Pendelton, Fairfield DD Resource Management Department, helps spread Patriotism in the office in July.

Courtney Pendelton, Fairfield DD Resource Management Department, helps spread Patriotism in the office in July.

Fairfield DD is proud to promote National Disability Employment Awareness Month, an annual awareness campaign that takes place each October. The purpose of National Disability Employment Awareness Month is to educate the public about disability employment issues and celebrate the many and varied contributions of America's workers with disabilities. This year's theme is Empowering All.
   The history of National Disability Employment Awareness Month traces back to 1945, when Congress enacted a law declaring the first week in October each year "National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week." In 1962, the word "physically" was removed to acknowledge the employment needs and contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities. In 1988, Congress expanded the week to a month and changed the name to National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
   "By fostering a culture that embraces individual differences, including disabilities, businesses profit by having a wider variety of tools to confront challenges," said Jennifer Sheehy, deputy assistant secretary of labor for disability employment policy. "Our nation's most successful companies proudly make inclusion a core value. They know that inclusion works. It works for workers, it works for employers, it works for opportunity, and it works for innovation."
   Reflecting this year's theme, throughout the month, Fairfield DD will be engaging in a variety of activities to educate Fairfield County on disability employment issues and its commitment to an inclusive work culture. These efforts include an advertising campaign, radio show appearances, speaking engagements and an aggressive presence on social media.
   "Fairfield DD is proud to be a part of this year's National Disability Employment Awareness Month," said Superintendent John Pekar. "We are proud of the partnerships we’ve established with area businesses and the progress we’ve made in supporting employment exploration and placement.”
   Locally, Fairfield DD works diligently to advance employment through Job Fusion, which provides job training and placement assistance. In addition, Fairfield DD also extends job training and internship exploration through Discover U, a training model located inside River Valley Mall. Even high school students are able to prepare for the workforce through the Project SEARCH program offered locally at Fairfield Medical Center through a partnership with Eastland/Fairfield Career & Technical School.
   Employers and employees in all industries can learn more about how to participate in National Disability Employment Awareness Month — during October and throughout the year — by visiting www.dol.gov/ndeam. For information on employment support offered through Fairfield DD, call 740-652-7220.


Remote Possibilities

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   Paul Hines, 52, lived in a variety of settings before moving into his own one-bedroom apartment several years ago. Most of the time, each home setting also meant round-the-clock staff occupying his home. So when Paul, who loves living alone, approached his ISC Kristi Dexter about the possibility of not having staff in his home in the evenings, Kristi and Paul’s support team turned to a newer trend, remote home monitoring.

   Approximately 8 people supported by Fairfield DD are using some form of remote monitoring which includes a wide-range of electronic devices that can replace a home health worker in certain circumstances.

   In Paul’s case, two cameras are installed in his home—one in the family room and one in the kitchen, in addition to an interactive monitor that connects him to his remote monitoring service. On the other end of the monitor are employees who know Paul and can converse with him remotely.

   “These systems are custom-built and tailored for each individual,” Dexter said. “With Paul, there are sensors on his front door and on a kitchen appliance that notifies the monitoring agency whenever activated. His service is active from 7 pm each evening until noon the next day. During that time, no staff is in his apartment.”

   “I like it,” Paul said. “It means no one has to be here at night. If I hurt myself they call me. It’s working good. If someone comes to my door, they call me. Like if a stranger comes in. They call me.”

   He said the cameras in the home do not bother him and Dexter confirms that the staff of the monitoring system are familiar with Paul’s support plan and the people who visit him. They even attend Paul’s support team meetings.

   This type of technology is an example of why Governor Kasich recently signed an order making Ohio a Technology First State. Under the order, supportive technology will be prioritized when evaluating a person's needs. The order creates a 10-member Ohio Technology First Council that will make recommendations for better incorporating technology to assist individuals with disabilities. As of 2017, approximately 170 people in Ohio with developmental disabilities were utilizing remote monitoring, but the Governor would like to see that number rise to closer to 600.
   As for the finances, Paul has a waiver that covers the expense of the monitoring system. The only additional cost to him was the installation of internet service in his apartment.
   “Paul is pretty happy that he only has staff in his home for 7 1/2 hours a day,” Dexter said. “The sense of independence is important to him.”
   “I can be by myself,” Paul said. “Have my privacy.”
   Paul, an avid Ohio State fan who has decorated his home in OSU memorabilia, feels pretty strongly about his independence. This fall, he will take his first trip to the ocean with money he has been saving for two years.
   “I did it all by myself,” he said.
Note: Paul uses a remote monitoring system by Wynn-Reeth, www.wynn-reeth.com.



Well Worth the Climb

matt 2.jpg

“I’m a rock star,” said Matt Sears as he fastened himself into his climbing harness at Vertical Adventures in Columbus. “My arms and my shoulders look so good.”

   A member of the Adaptive Climbing Club for Adults, Sears has been scaling indoor climbing walls for over a year, something his mother Colleen never thought she’d see her son do.

   “We didn’t know he could climb,” she said. “ I honestly didn’t think he was capable because there is so much problem-solving involved.”

   According to his mother, Matt, who has Down Syndrome, has difficulty with what she calls abstract thinking.

   “He has trouble figuring out steps, what to do next. He struggles with concepts of time. If you show him necessary steps, he can complete tasks but he does not typically figure those steps out for himself.”

   However, when it comes to climbing, that simply is not the case for Matt.

   Each climbing route at Vertical Adventures has a unique difficulty rating and is mapped out on the wall by a series of like-colored holds. Climbers must follow the route of green holds, for example, to make their way to the top of the wall—which may be 45 feet high.

   “He doesn’t quit,“ said his instructor and co-coordinator of Adaptive Ascents Christine Kessler. “He may get halfway up the wall and then stop while he assesses his next move. But that’s great. He does figure it out and he won’t come down until he’s reached the top and is ready to repel.”

   The Sears credit Fairfield DD Individual Support Coordinator Dawn Busser with suggesting that Matt give climbing a try. Knowing that Matt enjoyed sports and socializing, she thought it would be a good fit.


   Kessler, along with husband Jordan, work with children and adults of all ages and abilities in nine-week sessions and say the sport is not only rewarding for athletes, but safe.

   “It’s a lot safer that most sports because we mitigate risk by removing factors we can’t control. The climbing systems are all tested by coaches who have very broad climbing backgrounds. We have children climbing who are blind, adults climbing who have no use of their legs, and people with developmental disabilities climbing who are achieving personal successes they didn’t think possible.”

   Matt, for lack of a better terms, is truly hooked on climbing.

   “I like it so much,” he said. “I’m not scared of heights. It’s not scary to me. I always reach the top.”

   Mom Colleen agrees.

   “I don’t think he’ll ever be happy if he’s not climbing,” she said. “He just won’t quit.”

For information on Vertical Adventures, click here.


Too Busy to Slow Down

While many of us spent the extremely long winter binge-watching tv shows , Zach Harris, 30, of Fairfield County was busy with his two entrepreneurial start-ups.

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   “I’m the CEO,” Zach said as he pointed to the shiny food truck in his driveway. I also make duck calls.”

   The food truck is also the company headquarters of Zachariah’s Redeye Bar-B-Que, a full-time food truck owned and operated by his family.

   “I’m the head French fryer and I’m the dishwasher,” Zach added. “People know who I am.”

   Mother Kimberley said she and her husband, Larry, were looking for a way for their son to get out into the community but also a way to help him finance his eventual independence.

   “We had come to a point in our lives where our careers were ending,” she said. “We took our life savings and purchased this truck. My husband had been cooking his whole life and was really good at anything having to do with barbeque.”

   The family spent over a year outfitting the truck while perfecting their recipes before hitting the road. Everything on the menu is made from scratch—ribs, brisket, pulled pork and tacos, as well as mac n ’cheese and baked beans. Of course, Zach is partial to the hand-cut French fries, though he isn’t sure which way he prefers them.

   “It’s just hard to say,” he said with a shrug.

   The truck has become a common fixture in downtown Columbus and can be found three or four days a week serving up their mouth-watering lunches to the hungry downtown workforce. Their busy season begins when area festivals begin and they also are booking for private events, such as parties and weddings.

   But barbeque isn’t Zach’s only passion. An avid outdoorsman, like his father and brother, he loves to accompany the men in the family on hunting and fishing excursions, specifically duck hunting—made all the more fun when using his own, handmade duck calls.


   “I have my own workshop,” he said. “I have my own lathe and drill press too. I basically taught myself. I was watching the show Duck Dynasty and thought the duck calls looked like fun.”

   Zach has made quite a few of the hand-turned duck calls and has sold them in small shops, as well as given them to friends.

   “They work too,” he said. “We got a duck from using my duck call. We dressed it and ate it too.”

   As if Zach wasn’t busy enough, he and his mother volunteer to clean their church every week and he also spends time with his siblings’ children.

   “The next step is for us to find a way to build him something like a tiny house on our property,” his mom said. “He needs to have his own space and be independent. He’d love to have a separate workshop too.”

   In the meantime, Zach said he enjoys everything he does and loves spending time with his family.

   “Oh!” he added. “I also know how to sew.”


Exploring a New Frontier

Adam Meyers is enthralled with his internship

Adam Meyers is enthralled with his internship

“The best part of everyday is when I get to walk through these doors,” said 20-Year-Old Adam Meyers of Pleasantville while taking a break from his shift at COSI in Columbus. “I love it here.”

   Meyers is four months into a 10-month internship at Columbus’ Center of Science and Industry in a program called STEP, short for Secondary Transition Employment Program. The program, initiated and implemented by COSI, is designed for transition-aged students who have visual impairment. Similar to ProjectSEARCH, students work internships three days a week at COSI, rotating throughout various departments such as Guest Services, Animal Care, Janitorial, Atomic Café and Floor Faculty. The students also take classes and live residentially on the campus of The Ohio State School for the Blind in dorms. Under the direction of Katie King, Meyers and his fellow students live on campus Sunday through Friday, which is adjacent to the COSI campus in downtown Columbus, and participate in classes and internships throughout the week.

   “It’s kinda like living on a college campus,” Meyers said. “I like it. I’m fairly independent and I am close to work.”

   King said that Meyers in not only an excellent student, but a perfect fit for the program.

   “This program is designed for a kid like Adam,” she said. “He takes initiative and is very mature. He responds well to the environment in COSI and is great worker.”

    To date, Meyers said his favorite COSI exhibits are the new dinosaur exhibition and the HONDA cars experience. He enjoys the opportunity to interact with the hundreds of kids and their families who visit COSI daily and he values any time he can get with King.

   “She is the very best teacher you can have,” he said. “I’m learning a lot from her.”

   Those who have ventured into COSI are familiar with the loud excitement that radiates throughout the building but this vibrant ambiance is not intimidating to Meyers.

   “I was shocked by how big this place is but the noise doesn’t bother me,” he said. “It has taken me a while to navigate the elevators and it’s easy to get lost in here if you don’t know what you’re doing.”

   Meyers prides himself on not only being a diligent worker, but an effective co-worker as well.

   “I come to work ready every single day,” he said. “And I try to be a good mentor for people I work with and for the kids that come in here.”

   While he would love for his time at COSI to never end, Meyers is making plans to return to Fairfield County after graduation and obtain employment with Fairfield Union School District. While he is excited for the future, he’s enjoying every part of his COSI/STEP experience.

   “It’s going to be really hard to walk out of here for the last time,” he said. “It’s a great experience.”


Into the Forest with Artist in Residence


   Visitors to the accessible treehouse at the end of the Sensory Trail behind Forest Rose School will be greeted by a glimpse into the forest, and not just through the windows.

   A large-scale work of art by Art & Clay Artist in Residence Brandon Muck was commissioned by the Sensory Trail Committee and installed by Fairfield County Historic Parks, who operates the Sensory Trail. Special thanks to Art Brate, chairman, and to Chris Vargo from FCH Parks,  Brandon’s piece, titled Into the Forest, now graces the large wall directly inside the treehouse where a previous artwork had been, before being destroyed by vandals.

   “The piece is about how I want people to feel when they see it,” Brandon said. “It’s about peace. People might feel peaceful being in the woods or maybe my art will make them feel that way.”

   Brandon created his work by using a wood burner to trace over a landscape design he first sketched by hand. It is a woodland scene, complete with forest animals commonly found in this area. The tones in the work are natural, achieved by Brandon through the use of stains and varnishes. Finally, the art is coated in multiple layers of polyurethane, including several coats of a product that will resist graffiti.

   “I’m happy with it,” Brandon said. “It feels good for people to see my work. I don’t know what they will get out of it. I hope it just makes people happy and calm.”

BRANDON MUCK    Since 2013, Brandon has sold several works throughout central Ohio and participated in three group exhibitions. In 2014, Brandon had his first solo exhibition titled, Sifting Through Muck at Art & Clay on Main in Lancaster, Ohio. He’s been accepted by a jury in both 2016 and 2017 to the VSA Ohio: Accessible Expressions Tour in Columbus, Ohio. Brandon also has an outdoor work on display by the downtown gazebo, commissioned by Fairfield Federal Bank in Lancaster, Ohio. He is employed at Art & Clay and Fairfield Medical Center and lives in Fairfield County.




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.