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Always There: Allen County Board of Developmental Disabilities turns 50

By Sam Shriver, Lima News
Published Saturday, October 21, 2017

It was in October 1967 that legislation was passed for each Ohio county to formally organize a Board of Developmental Disabilities.

The Allen County Board of Developmental Disabilities will be marking 50 years with a special anniversary gala Oct. 28 at the UNOH Event Center.

The theme of the gala is “Always There,” a reference to how the service helps clients from cradle to grave.

“What’s unique here, when we added early intervention to our services, we started serving birth and through the end of life. I can’t think of another social service agency that has that,” said Theresa Schnipke, superintendent of Allen County Board of Developmental Disabilities. “It makes us very close to the people we serve because we saw them as children, now we’re still working with them as aging adults.”

Speaking at the event will be Chris Ulmer of Special Books by Special Kids.

“Nobody would print his book. He wanted to publish a book on his work as a special-education teacher and then he decided to do interviews, which has led him all around the world, interviewing people with disabilities,” Schnipke said.

History of Allen County Board of DD

Additionally, the history of the agency will be reviewed and there will be special recognition of individuals who have been served by the board since 1967.

“I think the one thing that hit me was how much the families had done and how much the community had gotten behind children with disabilities. Yes, the law was written in 1967 to begin this as a formal government agency, specifically designed for this, but really the history is much richer and much deeper than that,” Schnipke said.

The philosophy of how people with developmental disabilities are treated has changed dramatically during the past 50 years.

“We certainly had a huge learning curve, during the years I was here,” 1982 to 2016, said Esther Baldridge, former superintendent of the Allen County Board of Developmental Disabilities.

“We started out really focused on just those who had cognitive disabilities and then the law changed and we started serving people who had any developmental disability that resulted in significant deficits and so we ended up serving people who were higher functioning but had a lot more social issues. Back in the day, we were very selective about who we served, so if you were a problem in some way, we didn’t serve you,” Baldridge said.

“In fact, when I got here, we were refusing to change diapers in the adult program. In today’s world that’s just silly and we quickly changed that. If you had a challenging behavior you certainly were not served. Back in the day we would just expel you and then were learned we were the only game in town at that point and so we developed our skills,” she add.

“We started to learn if we listened to our clients and we found out what they needed and what they wanted that a lot of the behavioral problems would kind of go away, or at least remediated somewhat,” Baldridge continued.

Auglaize County’s Roots go deep

The story is a similar one in Auglaize County.

“It’s been an evolution of going, from really, no opportunities to introducing opportunities over time. Obviously the trend, way back when was to institutionalize instead of keeping them in the home. They just didn’t get out. There weren’t opportunities for learning, for working, for socializing anything like that, so that has really been an evolution over the last 50 years,” said Renee Place, superintendent of the Auglaize County Board of Developmental Disabilities.

“We were actually formed as the Auglaize School 64 years ago, which was a grassroots movement by parents. That’s how a lot of county board were started really before formal laws came into effect, establishing the county boards. We started as a school and then came the workshop. In the ‘95-‘96 school year, our preschool and school aged programs went to the county public schools and the Educational Service Center. We continue to support them each year with levy dollars, but those programs actually went to the school. We do operate an early intervention program for children birth up to age three and then of course we’re there to support a lifetime of services,” Place said.

Putnam County serves clients

In Putnam County, they continue to provide services in a modern way calling it “person centered.”

“Everything is centered around the person and what their needs and their wants are,” said Mike Boaz, superintendent of the Putnam County Board of Developmental Disabilities.

Boaz said they serve more 200 clients a year, from children to adults.


This article has been reproduced for educational purposes only and appeared in the Lima News. The original story can be found at:

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