Bittersweet, Inc. in Whitehouse is known for their extensive work helping adults and adolescents with autism. Since the organization’s founding in 1983, it has created vocational and educational opportunities, enriching social events and much more through activities at Bittersweet Farms and other areas of the community. During COVID-19, however, many of these in-person programs have been all but impossible to continue, at least for the foreseeable future. Luckily, Bittersweet has come up with a creative answer to the continuing need to provide programming— activity packs for their Day Program participants.
Delivered each Monday, the packets include guides created by the Bittersweet’s team of vocational specialists, and each one is quite different. From baking treats for the Farm’s chickens to creating origami butterflies and mandalas, each packet is a chance for the organization to continue building connections and facilitating learning.
“We really wanted to reach out to Day Program participants that are unable to come to the farm. This is a way to bring the farm to them,” says Bittersweet Development Director Julie Champa. “It’s a way to keep them connected to all the activities that they’re accustomed to doing.”
The packets are often very practical, like guides to handwashing and social distancing, but they can also be a way to connect with nature while still staying safe; for instance, there have been guides to bird watching and rock painting. It’s all a continuation of what makes Bittersweet Farms so therapeutic for people on the spectrum of Autism Disorders: activities that reinforce a sense of agency and accomplishment. Plus, the packs are appropriate and fun for many different learning levels.
The programs Bittersweet Farms offers have always included peaceful, low-stress activities like gardening and working with animals, but there are many programs that involve art therapy as well. There’s truly something for many different interests within their programs, and these packets seem to be continuing that tradition.
While social distancing has temporarily halted the Day Program as it was, the activity packs are helping participants get involved and stay active, as the Whitehouse Day Program Director, Devon Keysor, points out.
“We want to ensure that our participants continue to learn and grow with us, even at a distance!” he says.
To support this initiative and learn more about Bittersweet, Inc., call 419-875-6986, or visit bittersweetfarms.org.