For awhile now, I have been trying to decide how I should best describe Swallowtail Summit Farms. First of all, it will be much more than just a group home. I think everyone should understand why it needs to be built and what it means for anyone that will live, visit, or work here. More importantly, however, is the understanding of what it will mean for the parents of the children that will come to call it their home and their community. Swallowtail Summit Farms will be a place where autistic adults will feel they belong and can achieve anything they want.
The day we were told that our daughter was autistic was a terrifying day. So many things went through our minds and hearts. It is curable? How would we take care of her? How can we help her? What do we do now?I was someone who could fix anything, yet I couldn’t fix this. Taking care of Lorie became our life’s mission. The therapies – speech, physical, O.T. just to name a few, filled our daily lives.
While attending a conference on autism in Orlando, Florida, I saw many other families also affected by autism, with all the same questions, the same fears, the same worries, I saw how autism affected all types of families. At one of the talks, the man on my right side was a well known actor on a popular television show; on my left was a young father with two children, one of which had autism. We represented three different economic groups, but we all had one thing in common. We all had a deep desire to find out how to help our children. The young father and I talked a little after that class ended. Our children were getting the same therapies at present, but what about the future? We both worried about what kind of future awaited our children after we were gone. That conversation was where the idea of starting a group home was born. After moving to North Carolina so that Lorie could finish her schooling, I acquired thirty-eight acres and our quest to create a safe, nurturing home for Lorie and other autistic adults began in earnest.
Over the years, I have watched my daughter mature into a very caring and loving adult. And during those years, she has taught me so much. The most important lesson was learned one day while driving and talking about things. I guess Lorie must have had enough of me trying to teach her how to fit into a world that was not her’s. She said, “Dad, I am comfortable in my own world.” I knew then that it was I who had to change. But to see the hurt in her eyes when she realized that she could not do what others her age could and that she would always be dependent on others still tears my insides up. Self worth is important to us all. She has always been told that she has impacted other peoples lives but like most of us, we never know how. Her mother told me that while Lorie and she were shopping, a girl that went to high school with Lorie with came up and told her that she was inspired to become a therapist because of knowing Lorie in school. You can imagine how that made her feel.
As her parents age, she fears for her future and worries constantly. Her fear is also the greatest fear of aging parents with handicapped children. A parent’s job is to prepare their children to be independent and live on their own, but what happens when they cannot?
That it the compelling reason as to why the group home is so important. It will be a safe, nurturing environment where all involved can achieve their highest potential. They will be part of a small community within a much larger one. My daughter named the farm Swallowtail Summit Farms because of her love of the swallowtails, and in a small way, I think of the freedom of flight they have.
I hope this gives a small insight into the wants and needs of both the autistic child and their parents. Please realize that there has been a tremendous increase in the number of children with autism. After they reach the age of eighteen, there is little government support. If you do not have a handicapped child, please think of how you would feel if you did. It is a thought that never leaves your mind and one that you hope no one else ever has to think about.
After talking with other established farm-style group homes, I have learned that they have waiting list of over ONE HUNDRED individuals and they receive daily calls from all over the world asking for vacancies. The need is great and is getting greater everyday.
Thank you for your concern and interest. Please read the “Mission and Vision” pages to better understand us. We appreciate any help you can provide–a donation or volunteering to help on the farm.