The Otto Specht School Blog

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A New Endeavor

Sunflowers don’t grow in the deep shaded forest; they grow where conditions meet their needs, where they can become, with all the potential that once was locked inside the hard shell of a seed. We do not expect of the sunflower that it will thrive in the same environment as a fern or primrose. This fundamental truth of the natural world, also alive in the multitude of differences found within humanity, demands that we move away from standardization and create opportunities for each individual to become, with all the potential of his or her own unique being. 

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It is with this premise and a deep understanding of human development, that Otto Specht School continues to reach beyond the conventional classroom, offering diverse, individualized educational opportunities. Year after year at Otto Specht School, students who, for a variety of reasons, were previously unsuccessful by most schools’ measures, would begin to thrive. They would learn to learn, begin to interact and relate more to others, and become more actively engaged in and out of the classroom.

The future paths of our students are as varied as the students are and we work to help achieve the most complete fulfillment of each of our students’ passions, interests, and dreams. For some this means college, for others it may mean an art, vocation, or trade. At the same time, we recognize that for some of our families, and many others throughout our state, country, and around the world, their children may continue to need support in manifesting their best future long past high school. 

What any parent wants for their special needs child is not that different from what every parent wants for any of their children - to belong, to have meaningful work, to feel good about themselves and be happy. And, of course, they want to know that when they are no longer around, their child will have the love and support to continue to live a productive and meaningful life.

When Otto Specht School founder and director, Jeanette Rodriguez sees a need amongst the families of Otto Specht School, she cannot help but begin to consider how to meet that need. It was clear, in this instance, that the same community setting that made the success of the school possible, also could begin to answer the need of so many families in Otto Specht and beyond; families whose children have aged out of school and fallen off the so-called “cliff,” no longer eligible for services, but not ready for independent living or a typical college setting.

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Within the Threefold and Fellowship Communities, Jeanette and some staff members and parents began crafting programming for young adults, offering vocational, educational, and support services for adults with special needs in an integrated community. The program grew out of Otto Specht School, and out of the environment that the community provides, in which the young adult participants can find and manifest their potential. This young adult programming had a “soft launch” during the summer, with a few young adults participating in a variety of work activities within the Fellowship Community and taking part in music and art classes. We are excited for the growth of the program as we add hours and participants in the fall. All classes are available to people of all abilities, and participants work alongside diverse groups of people in their daily activities. Participants develop vocational and life skills while engaging in real work that helps the community.

"Interdependence Community" is an evolving term for the Developmentally Disabled community, and is key to what the Sweeneys and many others are looking for for their adult children with special needs. “For us, the definition of Interdependence includes the full participation in community life for BOTH of our sons: Naval Flight Officer - Dylan Sweeney, and Aspiring Farmer and Chef - Dustin Sweeney. The goal is to create a life with “purpose”, and this community is the ideal place for Dustin to achieve his goals in a safe and supportive environment.”

 - Mike Sweeney, 21+ parent and Otto Specht School Advisory Board member.

With many acres of farmland, forest, and gardens comprising much of the community campus, we know for a fact that not all plants are sunflowers, but the sunflowers we do grow, we grow in the gardens and open fields where they can become, with all the potential that once was locked in the hard shell of their seeds.

For more information, email Chela Crane at: ccrane@ottospecht.org