David, a 26-year-old adult with autism, is a participant in the Job Readiness Program (JRP) at Madison Fields. He joined the program in September 2019. His growth, leadership skills, and contagious enthusiasm is immense, and that’s exactly why we’re shining the spotlight on him![Read more…] about In the Spotlight: David, Job Readiness Program
There’s no doubt that this time has presented us all with a set of new challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic has presented each family with a set of unique challenges. Right now, some mothers are home with their children during the stay-at-home order attempting to juggle working from home and teaching their children, some have to seek new jobs as the world seems to shift to a “new normal,” some have been serving on the frontlines to keep the world outside of their homes running.
No matter the situation your family is in, there is no doubt that your mother figure, grandmother, and/or caretaker(s) deserve some extra recognition and thanks this Mother’s Day!
The staff at Madison Fields wants to thank all of the hard-working moms out there who keep our world spinning! Please download this packet we’ve created for Mother’s Day and give a little thanks to the mother figure in your life! She deserves it!
The Madison Fields Job Readiness program provides structured opportunities for young adults with autism or I/DD (intellectual/developmental disabilities) to discover an 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.
Our programs are now closed until further notice because of COVID-19 and the Stay-At-Home order. 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 who have 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. David 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
Madison Fields serves 45 riders in our Therapeutic Riding Program, 5 riders in our Hippotherapy partnership with REINS Therapeutic Services, and over 400 people each year through our Equine Assisted Activities and Learning programs. As you can imagine, volunteers are the backbone of all of our programs, but especially those that involve our equine companions! Volunteers are necessary for our riders and students to engage in activities safely.
The volunteer program at Madison Fields thrives when our staff is able to recruit critical thinkers, innovators, and leaders who return year after year to make a difference in our community. We often engage volunteers for a variety of reasons; some individuals come to Madison Fields to fulfill community service for student service-learning requirements, some come out to make new friends in a welcoming environment, others want to gain horse experience, but what ties all of these individuals together is that they all strive to be active members of the community and make a difference in the lives of others.
Today we take the time to put two of our most active and reliable volunteers in the spotlight: Sophia Kozauer and Shawnee Ronyak. Both of these dedicated teens clocked in over 150 hours in the Madison Fields barn in 2019.
Sophia Kozauer and her younger sisters, Maya and Sydney have all been riding horses for years. They have been volunteering at Madison Fields for three years, helping with everything from cleaning stalls to polishing our lesson equipment, and more recently, helping to exercise certain members of the Madison Fields herd.
Sophia is an eventer and competes in several circuits in the local area with her competition horse, Luna. She is well-versed in the ins and outs of horse-care. When Sophia turned 14, she was eager to begin using her horsemanship skills in Therapeutic Riding lessons during our STAAR Summer Program. She quickly evolved into a volunteer leader, teaching new volunteers about horse behavior and how to work through tasks in the barn.
Beyond teaching others, Sophia has developed meaningful relationships with other volunteers. Of her experience over the last three years, Sophia said, “My favorite things about volunteering at Madison Fields are all the friends and memories I make every day. The Madison Fields volunteers and staff are like my family and there are so many friends I’ve made that will last a lifetime. The horses are definitely a bonus too!”
Our volunteers are taught to be adaptable and to think on their feet! It’s the nature of Equine Assisted Activities and Therapies that things don’t always go as planned. Sophia said she has learned so much over the three years she has volunteered with Madison Fields, and added, “one thing that sticks out to me the most is that it’s okay to have bad days. Not everyday is going to be perfect, and that’s alright! You just have to keep your chin up and try again tomorrow, because there is no use worrying about things that you can’t change.”
Shawnee Ronyak began volunteering with Madison Fields during the Spring Session in 2019. Shawnee is hard working, she decided she would dedicate herself to volunteer work that amounted to the number of hours she would be working in a full-time job. This kind of dedication is hard to come by and is wildly commendable for a high schooler during the summertime.
Shawnee, like Sophia, came to Madison Fields with some horse experience. She grew up riding western, enjoying trail rides, and working on a farm as a young girl. When Shawnee moved to Maryland, she didn’t continue riding, but picked all of the skills back up quickly and became another volunteer leader, helping to teach other volunteers the ropes of the barn.
One thing that makes Shawnee so very awesome is that she’s not afraid to ask questions. So many of the skills Shawnee has picked up here at Madison Fields have been developed because she is attentive, asks questions, and takes initiative to learn and teach others every time she comes out!
The biggest thing Shawnee says she has gained from her experience volunteering at Madison Fields, are the friends she’s made along the way! After the STAAR Summer Program, she said, “The friends I have made at Madison Fields are the best friends I can ask for. Finding a lasting friendship is hard to come by, but never at Madison Fields because we are always there for each other.”
Of all the thing’s Shawnee has learned from connecting with our riders, she said the most important thing is how to look at the world with a positive attitude. She said, “When I’m in a lesson with a rider, I can always hear them laugh or look back and see them smiling. The lessons these riders have taught me have opened my eyes to so many things and I’m thankful for that.”
Thank you to our volunteers!
The mission of Madison Fields is in essence, to recognize the strength in a diverse, inclusive community. That means our staff, volunteers, and clients work together to teach one another and help one another to live up to our greatest potential. It becomes evident quickly that when we all work together, we become better versions of ourselves.
Sophia and Shawnee exemplify this every time they walk into the barn. It’s volunteers like that these who help us to create an inclusive environment in the barn, the community, and the world at large! We’re thankful for all of our dedicated volunteers who understand that we all grow best when we’re growing together!
The Madison Fields EAAT team is devoted to improving our participants’ quality of life through developing and fostering healing relationships with our therapeutic riding horses. Today, we are honored to put the spotlight on one of our riders, Max! Read more to find out what his family had to say about his experience at the farm.[Read more…] about In the Spotlight | Max