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. 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.
Just recently, Rose received her first paycheck for her work at Dutton Farm and we happened to catch it on video:
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!”
Dutton Farm is a non-profit organization in Oakland County that serves individuals with mental, physical, and emotional impairments. Staff are friends (no really) and work is meaningful. Our purpose is to positively impact the lives of our participants through partnership, dignity, and contentment. We provide an array of activities that foster self-belief and satisfaction. Our Community Integration Program and our Dutton Farm Market offer employment opportunities to people of all abilities. Here on the farm, we believe in the endless potential and worth of every human being and their ability to lead productive and fulfilling lives.