Newsletter – April, 2000

**Companion Resources Newsletter**

edited by Paul D. Leichty

Volume 2, No. 4 April 2000

Goldenrod. It is the name of a wild flower that I know very little about. (After this summer, I hope to know more!) But “Goldenrod” is also the name of a community, a community where our family now lives. “Goldenrod” is already an important word for us and will become even more so in the years to come. Goldenrod will undoubtedly affect the content of this newsletter greatly. So it is only fitting that I begin to introduce it to you. First, though, a word about the future of Companion Resources.

The seemingly endless noise of traffic has been replaced by the clip-clop of horses pulling their buggies. Instead of squirrels running up and down the walnut trees, there are bunnies hopping across the fields and cows grazing contentedly across the drive. There are also birds–remarkable creatures of many varieties with amazing habits. This is just a sampling of life in the Crystal Valley, the heart of Northern Indiana Amish country. Although having descended on one side of the family from Alsatian Amish-Mennonite roots, I do not know my spiritual cousins very well. But I have a feeling I will gain a new sense of what community is like as I live here.

However, while we will be neighbors to and learn from the Amish community Goldenrod is a community of a different sort. It is built around the needs of persons with autism spectrum disorders. Persons with autism and related conditions are often labeled by the modern medical establishment with the term “pervasive developmental disorder.” An amazing amount of knowledge is being gleaned about a whole spectrum of conditions ranging from extreme mental retardation to persons who are intellectually brilliant but think so differently that they still find it hard to fit into our society and culture.

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To learn more about autism and autism spectrum disorders, go to https://companionresources.org/Learning/Autism . I hope to keep updating these pages with the best resources available on the “net.”

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Goldenrod has begun with one duplex in the setting I’ve described. Each side has provisions for three residents and a set of caregivers, usually a married couple. My wife and I are the first caregiving couple and our son is the first resident. We now have a second resident and plans are underway for filling the third room.

But more than just a building, Goldenrod represents a vision. Signs on the 18 acre site indicate where three more such duplexes are to be built. Across the drive which is now a grassy field, at least 10 senior citizen duplexes are envisioned. Out our dining room window, we hope to see a community center that will seat 200 people for gatherings or meals. Across the way, a plot has already been plowed by our Amish neighbors for a community garden. The rabbits are coming soon and there are many more exciting ideas in various stages of development.

I leave you with one of the key principles of Goldenrod. Traditionally, persons with disabilities were thought of as almost completely dependent on others. In recent years, the movement of advocacy has put a lot of emphasis on helping such persons to be independent in their communities. However, the reality is that none of us are completely independent. Rather, we all use the abilities we have been given and seek out ways of making up for the things we can’t do so well. We are inter-dependent.

That is how it should be for all of us. Goldenrod is a vision of a community in which persons with autism can be cared for, but can also learn to give of their abilities. Caregivers, volunteers, and “foster grandparents” will learn to give and to care for persons who are “different,” but will also learn to receive of the gifts, simple yet profound, that persons with autism can offer.

That vision is just beginning, but I feel humbled and blessed to have a part in making that vision visible to more people just by living in love each day. My experience tells me that while it is not easy to live this way, it is possible as I allow the power of God’s Spirit to be the primary force in my life.

We are in a season when Christians celebrate Easter, God’s profound gift of new life shown in the resurrection of Jesus. That gift of new life is available to all of us as we give ourselves in love to all of God’s children, no matter what their abilities or disabilities.

Blessings to all of you!

Paul D. Leichty

The Goldenrod Community

Middlebury, Indiana

PDLeichty@cresources.org

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