The Archbold and Pettisville communities are no strangers to the Fulton County Board of Developmental Disabilities and its clients.
Whether they carry out groceries at Archbold Super- Valu or help at Pettisville Meats, bus tables at McDonald’s, Mom’s Diner, or the Barn Restaurant, or work a line at Sauder Woodworking, the developmentally disabled are finding ways to contribute to the local work force – and usually doing it with a smile.
“I think each person has a good fit. You just have to find it,” said Beth Friess, DD Board superintendent.
Two young men who are trying out their “fit” in Archbold are Shawn Summers and Erik McAtee. Both are employed by Sauder Woodworking in the Erie Distribution Center. They work on first shift.
“I like my job,” Shawn said. He has been with Sauder more than two years. He especially enjoys gluing boxes and working with his friend, Vern.
McAtee also has been there more than two years.
“I guess one of the things most people might say is getting their pay is the most important,” McAtee said.
“There can be another thing. It’s the co-workers. After spending the time getting to know them and working beside them, they become like family.”
“Some of them can be sillyheads, but that just makes the day more fun,” McAtee said.
“Boards of DD were established in 1967,” Friess said. “They’re in place by statute.
Two years ago we celebrated our 50th anniversary.
“When we first started, which was probably true of most county boards, we did some school-type things.
“They (the board) worked with children, worked with adults, kind of did the whole gamut.
“Where we are today is that we do direct services for children who are under three (years of age)– our early intervention population.
“For that group of kids, we have a staff that includes de- velopmental specialists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, a nurse that we contract with (through the) health department, a speech therapist– and they serve each child as a team.
“One of them may go out in the home and meet with the family and the child, but then they do this teaming process.”
She said the group gets together and decides as a team how they can best serve each child’s needs. Then one of them goes back to the parents to lay out a plan.
“We look at that philosophy that we’re not going to be with that child all the time. The parents are going to be with the child all the time,” Friess said.
“Our goal is to provide information, answer questions, and do what we can do in the time we’re there so that the parents can be the ones that are going to help their children.”
From age 3 until they are out of school – and children with disabilities can go to school until their 21st birthday– the public schools are responsible for their education.
Archbold and Pettisville have preschools within the elementary schools for this purpose.
While children are in school, the biggest role for the Board of DD is through its Service and Support Administrators (SSAs), who work as case managers for each child.
“They help families work through the process,” Friess said. “They’ll link them to other agencies if they need help with something.”
“We have funding that we use that’s called Family Support Services. Those dollars are available to help families whose needs might be different than raising a child without a disability.”
“When clients get out of school, the ultimate goal is that they can work out in the community,” Friess said. “That’s what we want them to do.”
In Fulton County, Friess estimates that 35 to 40 clients work in community jobs. Other options include day programs where they may do art or community events.
They may also hold jobs at Triangular Processing in Wauseon or Quadco in Stryker– workshop settings that are set up to help clients learn job skills.
“The hope is that at some point, they will work out in the community,” Friess said.
Employers are an important part of the process.
“Really, I think, that’s something we look at. How do we encourage employers to take that chance? Maybe this will work. Let’s give it a try.
“We look at everybody and think, what’s their potential, and how can we help them to get there?”