Program Director & COO
I have had had the opportunity to be involved with a few families in the celebration of their new baby with Down Syndrome. I was reflecting on the differences from 40 years ago until now. I realized that we have made a lot of progress.
In the early 70’s your baby was whisked away from you and kept isolated. This was to “protect” you from bonding in case you didn’t want to take the baby home, especially if you were young. Now it is treated like any other birth which is so much better. Barring complications you can hold your baby immediately.
40 years ago when you were given the diagnosis of Down Syndrome it was given in hushed tones and with a very somber attitude. Choices were presented and even encouraged that would never be presented today.
Nowadays people will support the family with gifts and meals and prayers and visits. Back in the 70’s it was a lonely time when you had a baby with a disability, the general reaction was pity. People didn’t know what to say so they avoided you.
And, of course, there are websites for information and encouragement that are so beneficial and inspiring. Not much information available at all 40 years ago.
It is so wonderful to see how far we’ve come in the past half a century! But we’re not there yet. The services for adults still need improvement. Jobs and Job Training are high on the priority list at Dutton Farm. We want to give these new babies a future full of opportunity and independence. Join us in this mission!
When Becca was elementary school age I had an experience that still sticks with me today. I was at a school event and was chatting with some of the other moms when the subject of birthdays came up. We were sharing the different ways we celebrated our child’s birthday when one of the mothers whose child was profoundly disabled spoke up. “We don’t really celebrate his birthday” she said.
“He doesn’t know either way”. This probably sounds cold to some people but my heart broke for her. True, he wasn’t fully aware but maybe she wasn’t in a place to celebrate yet. I tried to remember his birthday for many years after that to let her know he was cared for.
I want to be mindful of other families in similar situations and not just my own. We need each other and we need to share the love we have for our child with the world. It can be difficult when we experience rejection over and over, we become defensive but we can’t expect the community to care about our child if we don’t lead by example in caring for other people and their children. I liken this to the Bible verse; “you will know them by their love one for another” ( John 13:35).
I firmly believe that we need to care for each other and the children/adults in this community ourselves before we can expect others to do the same. I don’t want to see Down Syndrome or Autism, or CP I want to just see a beautiful individual that is valued and important. I want to pave the way for others to follow.
Please celebrate our Farmers at our annual Superhero themed Fashion Show. Sept 30 … doors open at 12:30. Tickets can be purchase on our website. Sliders and snacks will be provided. It is the Farmers big day! Click the link below to buy tickets.
Many years ago, when Becca was in her early teens, I led a group of adolescents with special needs in a group for “typical” kids at our church. My other children went so I wanted her to have the chance to participate. Evidently, a lot of other parents felt the same way as our group grew rather quickly. The evening consisted of Bible stories, verses, games, and social time. We did the verses and stories in our classroom and joined the rest of the kids for the rest of the time. It was a great way to practice inclusion.
We adapted the games for the kids with special needs when necessary. For example, in a running competition we would push people in wheelchairs as fast as we could as the group cheered them on.
One evening a new boy joined us. He was cognitively impaired and had some difficulty walking. Everyone welcomed him and he seemed to be really enjoying himself.
Then it came time for the games. One of the scheduled games was a relay. It would be difficult, if not impossible, for the new boy to run the race with any dignity. So, impulsively, I put him on my back – piggy back style – and ran the race…we didn’t win ( I am not an athlete🙂), but he loved it.
About midweek I received a call from the supervisor of the program. He wanted to talk to me about the relay, evidently someone had complained that the boy on my back had an “unfair advantage”! Seriously!?!?! It seemed fine that he had absolutely no chance to compete prior to that. Incredulous, I asked for a name. It was no surprise to me that the person wanted to remain anonymous. My response was, “When they want to give me their name, I will address their complaint but until then he will continue to ride piggyback in the relays.”
This is not meant to be a reflection on the church but on society at large. Giving someone the advantage when they have no other chance is not unfair, it is unselfish.
At Dutton Farm any mistake belongs to all of the staff, never to the Farmers.They will always feel success here, never failure. That’s one of the many things that makes Dutton Farm unique.
Please make plans to attend our annual Fashion Show on September 30 at the Royal Park Hotel. It is the highlight of the year for the Farmers! Hope to see you there!
We have always had a pool and we love to vacation near the water, so it was extremely important for her safety that she knew how to swim. It was not easy to find a teacher as she really needed private lessons from someone who was comfortable with disabilities and could teach swimming (remember this was 40 years ago). She could not keep up with a “typical” age appropriate class. After many inquiries I was able to find a girl to teach her at our local high school. We took her faithfully for about 3 years. The first month or so she wouldn’t even get in the pool. The instructor distracted her with some toys and coaxed her in as we cheered. It took a long time but she eventually got the hang of it and even learned to backstroke and swim underwater! I can still remember watching her swim her first lap across the pool, we were so proud! I can honestly say that swimming is one skill she can do as well as anyone without a disability.
It always amuses me when we are at a beach or hotel and she gets up to jump in. Curious people look at her and then at me. If I’m not looking they will inevitably call me to make sure I see her. Of course, I do. I smile and say “just watch”. She will dive in and swim underwater and do her different strokes and climb out like it’s nothing.
People don’t give her enough credit and are shocked when she does so well. We see that same principle at Dutton Farm all the time. We work on a skill for Daily Living or Job Skills and eventually someone will understand it and after a bit more practice can do it well. The Farmers don’t give up and neither do we!
Check out our products, handmade by the Farmers, some independently after a lot of hard work and determination. They are amazing!
Dutton Farm Market
I have been a part of the special needs community for over forty years, raising a daughter with Down Syndrome, teaching classes, and running a day program, and I have seen a lot of changes in those years. Our daughter was born in 1975, the same year that the Education of All Handicapped Children Act guaranteed her a “free and appropriate” education.
Education has improved, medical care has also improved, and awareness is much better. But, unfortunately, housing and employment are two areas with little or no improvement.
It troubles me that there are so few options for employment of people with special needs. At Dutton Farm we have helped dozens of people find jobs, individually or with a group, with job coaches or independently. Personally, I feel that churches should set the example in their community for hiring people on the margins of society. We have placed people in jobs in our local churches with great success.
Having a job, something productive to do every day, is as important for people with disabilities as it is for everyone. Typically, they are hard workers, punctual and enthusiastic. There are character qualities they possess that far outweigh efficiency and speed. And if you ask any of our employed Farmers what their favorite thing is about their job, they will tell you with their sweet honesty “the money!”