GREENVILLE — The first Darke County Board of Developmental Disabilities (DD) Appreciation and March Disabilities Awareness Breakfast took place Thursday, March 9.
The purpose was to show appreciation for an increasing support to members of the community, according to Superintendent of Darke County DD Michael Beasecker.
“I think about all of the work you have done in partnering with us and identifying the talents and skills in the DD community,” he said. “Another special time for our agency, is this year we are celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the creation of county boards of developmental disabilities.”
A slide show of the history of DD in Darke County highlighted important landmarks in the DD history.
From the first school, to focusing less on facilities and to now moving toward providing opportunities for people to live in their communities, is the moving trend. In addition to Beasecker, other speakers included, the Director of Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities Kevin Miller, Darke County Economic Development Director Mike Bowers and Director of the Ohio Department of DD Director John Martin. According to Martin, Darke County DD has always had a good reputation.
Martin shared a personal story. He and his wife have both been immersed in the DD field by way of work and home. Their son, Joel, was diagnosed with severe cerebral palsy.
“It has been an incredible pleasure and journey,” Martin said.
He quickly and enthusiastically picked up the responsibility of feeding Joel. With zeal, he ground Joel’s food in a Sears & Roebuck food grinder, he said. He could tell by Joel’s eyes, that Joel liked what he was eating. Joel started having problems swallowing, which first started at school, Martin said. Pressure mounted from other outside sources to have Joel eat with a Gastrostomy Tube (G-Tube). As years went by, his wife started pushing for Joel to use the G-Tube.
“I said, ‘No – there is no way,’ Martin said to his wife. ‘He likes to eat, he enjoys the flavor of food, we are not taking that away from him’. Since I did the feeding, I won the argument,” Martin said.
After more outside pressure, by the time Joel was about 14, Martin finally relented and a G-Tube was put in Joel. After that, he never again opened his mouth for food, Martin said.
“I realized that I, as his father, had forced him to do something very uncomfortable, which was to swallow food to stay alive,” Martin said. “I liked food and I liked feeding him and it was what we did together. It was a communion experience. This was a very difficult lesson and it was about forgiveness.
“He still likes me as a dad; he smiles-all those things. The lesson is, that many of us are in the position of making choices for others. The story, at least to me, points out that can be a very dangerous thing. Often when we are doing that, we are projecting what is important to us on onto someone else. Over time when we look at the decisions we make for people: who can work and who can’t, who can live in the community and who can’t – a lot of our decisions are based on our own perceptions. How do we look at getting the folks in our service delivery systems, while making sure we are giving them the choices so they can experience things? Only then we will know that is want they really want to do and not just a perception.”
According to Darke County Economic Development Director Mike Bowers, Darke County DD serves a little more than 400 individuals. As of January 2017, 53 of those individuals were employed by 40 companies.
“That is a nice piece,” Bowers said. “We are working to increase that number and the activity with the other companies to come on board. How many of you as employers would love to have employees that are focused, task – oriented, show up early and don’t complain,” he said. “That is a good thing to have.”
Additionally, with the county’s volunteer partners, as of December 2016, at least 41 individuals with DD volunteered their time, talent and treasure, Bowers said.
“Those men and women are averaging more than 100 hours of community service per month in various volunteer opportunities,” he said.
The 50th Anniversary Theme for Darke County DD is “Always There.” Beasecker wants to keep that commitment moving forward.
“Community integration – things we take for granted: the recreational activities I participate in, the relationships I build – a person with a disability should be no different in hoping to live the life I desire to live,” Beasecker said. “That is why we need all of you, as you are partners in this with us.”
The writer may be reached at 937-569-4354. Join the conversation and get updates on Facebook search Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.