Serving Teens with Autism

. April 2, 2018.
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With a stated mission “to positively impact the lives of individuals with autism and those whose lives they touch,” Bittersweet Farms provides opportunities for adults and adolescents with autism to grow, work and live to their fullest potential.

Bittersweet’s history

Bittersweet Farms began in the mid 1980’s when Bettye Ruth Kay, a high school special education teacher, realized the future looked bleak for many of her students once they left high school. Kay realized adulthood for these students often consisted of tedious and repetitive tasks in workshops, living at home with their parents or even being placed in institutions. With a dream to change the future for individuals with autism, Kay traveled to England to visit a farmstead community, which became the inspiration for Bittersweet Farms.

Today Bittersweet Farms’ main campus is an 80-acre farm in Whitehouse that provides residential services, day programming and vocational services for adults with autism. Farm activities, including agriculture, horticulture, maintenance, marketing, animal care and woodworking, not only create vocational training, but also have excellent therapeutic value. The residential activities range from creating and selling artwork to producing basil pesto and tomato chutney, sold commercially in local stores.

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A focus on youth

With the success of the adult programs, Bittersweet Farms has also focused great attention on helping adolescents with autism. The Pemberville site offers a school/transition program where a full-time teacher provides pre-vocational training, academic help and homemaking skills for adolescents from 13-22 years old.

Bittersweet Farms also offers various other programs at all locations— Whitehouse, Pemberville and Lima (Betty’s Farm)— that are geared towards teens. Friday night fun, social skills classes, life skills classes and summer enrichment programs, all dedicated to helping adolescents with autism to develop the skills necessary for the transition into adulthood.

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Getting social

As part of their mission to help people and families with autism, Bittersweet Farms hosts a full schedule of social activities, outings and fun nights. Want to get involved? Children, teens, and their parents will enjoy these upcoming opportunities:

Held at each location beginning in June, the popular Summer Enrichment Program gives participants the experience of life on the farm. The varied programming includes themed weeks, gardening, taking care of farm animals, creating art in the studio, and more. Find more information online at bittersweetfarms.org/services/summer-enrichment.

On the second and fourth Friday of each month, teens can enjoy outdoor activities, meal prep, family-style meals, activities like crafts, games, movies, and more, during the Friday Night Fun program. Each session costs $35. 5-9pm. Hope United Methodist Church, 10610 Waterville St., Whitehouse. For more information, contact Taylor Barndt at tbarndt@bittersweetfarms.org or call 419-206-7803 for more information.

The Social Living Club, a recreational program that focuses on providing community activities for adolescents with autism, is held at each location. “This is a great opportunity for the SLC teens to find a passion for reading, as well as an opportunity to discuss the various books and develop social skills. We are thrilled to be participating in this awesome opportunity!” said Taylor Barndt, community outreach specialist for Bittersweet Farms.

Club activities have included culinary classes, visits to the zoo, volleyball, painting and an upcoming five-week bowling class, held from 6-7pm Wednesdays from April 18 through May 16. Register in advance. $45. 20th Century Lanes, 547 S. Main St., Lima, OH. For more information and to sign-up, please contact Robert Foreman at rforeman@bittersweetfarms.org or call
419-205-2841.