The annual open house and art show at Bell’s Adult Training Facility (ATF) is a festive event. While many of the individuals who attend the program – all who live with considerable intellectual disabilities – are considered to be “non-verbal,” there’s no denying their ability to communicate joy as visitors arrive.
One individual squeals with delight when someone comments positively on her artwork. Another offers a hug when they see a familiar face. Others simply choose to stand next to you and hold your hand, or watch curiously from a further distance.
For their family members, the experience spotlights why they’ve chosen the ATF day program for their beloveds. “They get to participate here more than when they were in school; it’s more hands on,” says Kathy Gross, whose daughter April has been attending the program for the past 10 years. “She loves everybody,” Kathy says, “The employees are just awesome. There’s so much love that you can see it.”
For Kathy, the benefits of April attending the day program on the campus of the Brethren Home in New Oxford spill into their home life. “She does everything with us: church, camping, trips to Texas and Florida. The first thing she does when we go to church is give the pastor a hug.”
Another mother who came to the event, Anna Light, echoes Kathy’s sentiments. Anna’s daughter Leatha has attended the program for nearly 16 years and has become much more independent during that time. Anna is complimentary of the program coordinator and staff. “They work with us to develop specific goals for Leatha to reach, and they are really good ideas,” she said.
Building skills during her time at the day program translates to Leatha being more helpful at home. “She clears her own plate after eating, attempts to make her bed, washes her own hands, and she even is beginning to dress and undress herself,” her mom reports proudly. “Yes, she’s really learning to be more independent.”