The Madison Fields Job Readiness program provides structured opportunities for young adults with autism or I/DD (intellectual/developmental disabilities) to discover interest in agriculture, expand current knowledge, and develop new skills. Each session runs 6 to 8 weeks. When a member of the team completes a session, they are awarded a certificate that notes their hard work and specific skill development.
Most participants continue their educational journey with us, completing multiple sessions to continue building on their skills. In returning session after session, relationships are fostered between participants, peers, and staff members.
Because of COVID-19 and the Stay-At-Home order, our programs are now closed until further notice. Day services are also closed, which most of our participants attend on a regular basis. The closing of programs and day services tremendously impact our participants, their families and their caregivers; the disruption of routine and lack of face-to-face communication leaves individuals feeling lonely and isolated.
Our Job Readiness Program Manager, Nancy Frasche, has been working to keep our participants’ routines as normal as possible with virtual meet-ups, online activities, etc. during scheduled program hours.
Nancy asked some parents for personal statements, regarding the effect of program closures on their adult children has been affected by program closures. Read below to find out how some of our participants have been impacted.
Anne & Del B.’s Statement
Our son, David, is a 25 year old living with autism. Prior to the quarantine, he participated in a day program 5-days a week and had a one-on-one community support assistant. As part of his regular programming, David also had been participating in the Madison Fields Job Readiness Program with his job coach, learning farm skills and how to take care of the horses, goats, and chickens. He really loved his co-workers, coaches, and the animals. The remainder of his week was spent in community based activities with his day program peers.
The Job Readiness Program at Madison Fields has been exceptional, as David has acquired new skills but most importantly, he has grown as an individual. Over these last few months, David has shown a greater ability to focus on the task at hand while engaging appropriately with others in a work environment. He also shows a greater sense of accomplishment, pride, motivation, and has found a few new friends. He is all smiles on Madison Fields’ work days!
Since the onset of the pandemic and the stay-at- home order, our family is at home like everyone else. However, for David, the transition has been very difficult. He likes his routine, and actually derives much comfort from it. He likes the same activities, with the same people, and the same experiences. He is not fond of change. As a family, we set up recurring activities such as reading, writing practice, walking the dogs, Facetime calls with friends and family, and a few extra chores. He also participates in selecting and preparing meals, and likes to critique the meals we prepare to determine if Mom or Dad needs to be “Chopped!” However, he misses his day program and Madison Fields the most.
Madison Fields recognized the need to keep the farm community and program participants connected, starting Zoom lunch calls twice a week. It has been a great way to keep David connected. The program also started a YouTube page with videos and learning resources on various farm topics. He enjoys them, and Mom and Dad are learning a lot of new things too! David even had the opportunity to have a Zoom chat with his favorite horse, Shay! He was sooooo excited!
Creating these opportunities for him to continue to learn and to engage with others have meant so much. The activities have also helped our family to build additional structure into his day.
This pandemic is certainly not a good thing all around; however, our special needs populations are the most vulnerable. Thank you to the staff at Madison Fields for the continued services and your compassion for others. We all appreciate you more than you know. You are having a real impact!
Anne and Del B.
Nancy T.’s Statement
Before the lockdown was put in place, my son Willie, 22, was attending the Job Readiness program every Tuesday and Thursday at Madison Fields.
Willlie’s diagnosis is autism and ADHD. He has received services through the state of Maryland Department of Developmental Disabilities. Willie has been working with a one-on-one aide, Aboukar Kanfor, who picks him up at our home and brings him to the farm.
The farm program has been wonderful because Willie loves working with animals. The job skills he is learning have been invaluable. Also, he has been able to interact with staff, meet new people, learn new skills and prepare for possible future employment. He received a certificate of completion after the winter session at the farm and was ready to begin the spring session when the program was closed due to the Coronavirus.
Now Willie stays home, playing games on his computer. He has not been outside the house in 3 weeks. He is becoming increasingly bored and isolated, losing skills and losing connections.
I am unable to offer the program, stimulation and skills that Madison Fields has provided.
I hope Madison Fields is able to reopen the program soon. When it is safe, I know Willie would love to be back at the farm. He misses the horses, the goats, the soap factory, the staff, the other participants and everything else at the farm.
Nancy T. (Willie’s Mother)
Find out more about how Nancy is keeping our participants engaged, virtually: Video!