It's with regret to announce that our customer drop off dock will be closed for a "to be determined" amount of time due to a sprinkler main leak that caused major flooding in our building over the Memorial Day weekend. The foundation of our building has also shifted or collapsed near our sprinkler main control valve. Please stay posted for updated information. Our most sincere apologies to our customers.

The Meadows Blog

The Humanity of Autism

Michael Crawley - Saturday, January 25, 2014

Autism is often misunderstood by the public. Because it takes many forms and has a wide range of characteristics, its effects can be subtle or startling. When it’s diagnosed, entire families are changed forever. Communication and social interaction can be affected in varying degrees. It is rapidly on the rise, and there is still much about it that remains unresolved. However, one thing about autism is absolutely certain; the people who live with it are completely equal members of the human family.

There is a staggering amount of material written about the possible causes and treatments. Countless articles and papers focus on the behaviors and other issues that are sometimes present. Much of this information is useful, some of it less so. But as we navigate the massive volumes of research about such a diverse topic we must always remain aware of the fact that we are talking about flesh and blood human beings with the same needs as anyone else. Individuals living with autism are not just statistics. They are not just a diagnosis. They are loved ones, friends and co-workers.

You only have to spend a short amount of time on social media to realize that this subject elicits strong opinions regarding treatment choices and possible causes. There is sometimes great division among individuals who have autism, their families and those who work in this field. These conflicts often result from the fact that everyone has their own individual experiences which makes each person’s point of view valid for them. Since autism is not the same for everyone, it is critical that we treat each person as a completely unique human being with their own personality, likes, dislikes, challenges and abilities. To compare one person against another is unfair to both.

But there are still those who are quick to make broad generalizations. When they hear the word autism they jump to conclusions and make unfounded assumptions about a person.

Too often the ones we care about are described as “different”. In many cases it is used in a negative context. For some people it is code for “not normal” or “less than”. They witness a child engaged in repetitive body movements or they encounter a person who is nonverbal, and they immediately pass judgment without knowing a thing about them. Many mothers and fathers have had a child with autism display a particular behavior in public only to be condemned for their parenting by observers who had no frame of reference for what was causing the child to act that way.

Because it can be an invisible disability, autism is often met with such intolerance. Behaviors that can be associated with it are frequently not understood and at first glance are presumed to be bad or dangerous. When a person with autism becomes upset or frustrated in public there is little thought or consideration given to what could actually be causing their discomfort. People rush to judgment without attempting to understand the situation. This kind of reaction only adds stress to someone who is already coping with issues that others are not aware of.

While autism is a fact of life, it is how we respond to those who live with it that determines, to at least some degree, whether their experiences will be positive or negative. It is crucial that we are supportive and accepting. We must be interactive, but we must also give them space to process the world in a way that is logical to them. We must avoid the tendency to try and convince people with autism that they should meet our expectations. It is incorrect to assume that we have all the answers. Too often we mistakenly believe that they will somehow be improved if they will only follow our instructions.

Although it is necessary to assist individuals so that they can function within society in a way that works for them, we must take great care not to fall into the trap of pushing them to fit in. After all, each of us wants to be accepted exactly as we are. We don’t want to be considered broken or in need of some kind of repair. Our task is to provide programs and supports that allow each person with autism to develop the talents, skills and abilities that they already possess and to provide them with the opportunity to learn new ones. In this way we practice acceptance today while offering hope for tomorrow. If we will only stop and take a moment to appreciate the person behind the diagnosis we will realize that within the complicated world of autism resides the quiet beauty of the human spirit.

That is why we must not allow autism to be used as an excuse to ignore, disrespect or neglect someone. People on the spectrum have the same rights and freedoms as any other member of society. And if for some reason individuals with autism have difficulty understanding their rights than we must speak up on their behalf. We must be willing to advocate so that their voice is heard, no matter what their circumstances might be. For those who are nonverbal or have challenges with their speech we must reach out and find ways to communicate that allows them to make a connection with the world on their terms. A person’s lack of social interaction should never create the automatic assumption that they cannot learn. It is wrong to make snap judgments based on opinions and not facts. Just because someone cannot currently perform a task does not mean they can’t learn to do it in the future. Accepting the diversity that autism represents allows us to embrace inclusion for everyone no matter what their current abilities might be.

Because people with ASD can experience sensory sensitivity to sights, sounds and touch, it requires great courage on their part to try and connect with a world that overstimulates their senses and at times seems irrational to them. How would we react if we were constantly being pushed to behave in a way that did not seem natural to us? How would we respond if we found ourselves in a society that we did not understand? How isolated would we feel if we could not find a way that was comfortable for us to interact with others? People with autism courageously attempt to live so that their reality makes sense to them. Therefore we have a responsibility to try and understand their world and to respond in positive ways. That includes accurate diagnosis, early treatment and providing the resources necessary for families to adjust to their situation and move forward with their lives. It means practicing inclusion in all areas of society and making sure that people are treated as equals at all times. We must remember that autism affects the human brain, but it has no effect on a person’s humanity. Neurological function plays no part in determining the worth of an individual or the value of a life.

In other words, how someone perceives the world should not affect how the world perceives them.

Certainly there are situations where people with autism are vulnerable and dependent on others for their care and welfare. In such cases our compassion must be proactive. Every effort must be made to allow them to have a life that provides stimulation and activity. We must help them remain engaged in every way that is safe for them. They cannot be pushed aside and forgotten because they do not wish to have contact with those around them. We cannot neglect them just because they are reluctant to verbally interact with others. They cannot be marginalized because they are uncomfortable in social settings. It is important for us and them that we embrace their humanity because although a person with autism may wish to avoid physical touch they can still touch your heart.

Unfortunately, there is an alarming increase in the rate of ASD that clearly demonstrates the need for a corresponding increase in funding for research on treatments. It also means we must increase the programs and supports that we offer to individuals and their families. It means we must increase educational awareness so that all citizens understand the dynamics and effects of neurological conditions. But most importantly it means that, as a society, we must increase inclusion and acceptance while avoiding judgment and intolerance. We cannot ignore another person just because it requires extra effort on our part to interact with them.

But for all the facts, figures, statistics and research regarding autism it ultimately comes down to how we treat each other. It is the very human story of the people who live with it and those who love and support them.

A diagnosis of autism affects every member of a family as they make sacrifices and adjust their own personal needs to ensure that their loved one has the opportunity to live their life to the fullest. The parent of a child with autism learns to take life one day at a time while treasuring the small quiet moments that others take for granted. They realize the importance of every victory, and they rejoice at each milestone no matter how delayed. They willingly assume responsibilities that others will never be aware of, and they face a lifetime of challenges with courage. They are a doctor, psychologist, advocate, playmate, friend and the person their child loves most.

When a mother holds her son or daughter with autism, the future can seem frightening. The pressures she faces can include everything from financial stress to lack of educational choices to a shortage of employment options when her child reaches adulthood. She can be overwhelmed. The lack of understanding she experiences from others can be infuriating. She can feel alone and isolated from other parents whose children are progressing while her child struggles. She gets conflicting advice about treatments, supports and programs or perhaps no help is offered at all. Almost every aspect of her life revolves around the needs of her child. Her every waking moment is touched in some small way by the fact that she is the mother of a child with autism.

However, all the problems, frustrations and setbacks are made bearable because of the complete and total unconditional love she has for her child. It is a love that will sustain them in their darkest hours and that will allow her to face every difficulty with wisdom and resolve. It is a love that will burst with joy over her child’s accomplishments in the face of challenges and obstacles. It is a love so profound that it will triumph over the ignorance, intolerance and cruelty of others. It is a love that will act as a bridge from the past to the present and into the future. It is a love that will bring peace when there is chaos and comfort when there is despair. It is a love that will define giving and selflessness, and it will express the deepest compassion possible for another human being. It is a love that will allow her to commit her entire being to the good of her child. It is a love that will grow ever stronger with time and will never weaken no matter what life may bring. It is a love that will bind their lives together forever. It is a love that will be eternal.

We owe that mother and her child nothing less than our best efforts to ensure that their lives are filled with hope, opportunity and equality.

At this time we cannot control the incidence of autism, but we have complete control over whether those with autism are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.

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Our Friends

Michael Crawley - Monday, January 13, 2014

The loss we feel when a person dies is difficult to put into words. We are not only overwhelmed by the grief of losing them in the present, we must also contend with the heartbreaking knowledge that we face the future without them. It is the greatest pain we are forced to endure as human beings. And although we all know death is a natural part of the circle of life, accepting that fact does little to ease our suffering when we lose someone important to us. 
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Special Olympics

Michael Crawley - Wednesday, January 01, 2014

How do you measure courage? That question can be answered by the individuals who joyfully participate in Special Olympics. 
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An Act of Courage

Michael Crawley - Saturday, November 30, 2013

We all admire courage. Bravery is considered one of the finest qualities an individual can possess. That is why we honor those who demonstrate courage with medals and awards. We put them on a pedestal and look up to them. We emulate them and wonder if we could have the same level of fearlessness that they display. Our society makes heroes out of those who exhibit this important quality. We are drawn to it, and we seek it out from the everyday experience. Being courageous is an honorable thing.

Of course there are many kinds of courage. Sometimes it is expected from certain people because of their line of work. Police officers, fire fighters, those in the military and medical personnel are often called upon to take heroic actions. It is what they do, and our society would be far less safe without their selfless contributions. We have come to admire courage in athletes. We watch with awe as an individual fights through a painful injury and keeps playing. We admire those who are willing to take risks we would never even consider. Whether it is driving a car 200 mph or hurtling down a snow packed mountain, we are captivated by those who risk their bodies and their lives in an effort to do what seems impossible.

Because it comes in many forms, courage can be spectacular or silent. It can be viewed by the entire world or it can happen completely out of sight. It can be displayed by one person or an entire nation. In the past there have been brave citizens who have stood up for causes that truly changed society in a meaningful way. Individual acts of courage can often be the catalyst to a movement that improves the lives of millions. These people have demonstrated one of the most important and rarest forms of courage, and that is the courage to care. Caring requires effort and sacrifice. It forces us to take action. It does not allow us to be lazy, selfish or apathetic. It demands that we stop fixating on our petty problems and acknowledge the needs of others. We often have to step away from the crowd and be willing to be in the minority. It requires us to be our best.

That is the kind of courage shown by individuals with intellectual challenges and their families.

Put yourself in this person’s place.

53 years ago your son was born with a developmental disability. Doctors said your baby would be a burden to you for the rest of your life, and they urged you to place your son in an institution to spare you the expense, pain and humiliation of having what the medical profession referred to as a less than “perfect” child in your family. You refused.

Because of his disability, your son endured a long series of painful and life threatening medical procedures as he was growing up. You lived with the constant fear of losing him, but you knew you had no choice but to go through with the surgeries so that he could have the highest quality of life possible.

Your child struggled in school and quickly became a target for cruel bullying that threatened to destroy his self-esteem. The teachers and administration seemed powerless to stop it, but you refused to let your son be a victim because of the ignorance of others, so you became his advocate and stood up for his right to be treated as an equal human being.

Your son finished school and suddenly faced a 70% unemployment rate for individuals with developmental disabilities. Employers would not even consider hiring him for fear that their customers would not feel comfortable around him or that it would be cost prohibitive to make adaptions in the work environment to accommodate him. But your son refused to give up his dream of having a job and together you searched until you found an employer who accepted him for who he was. Your child was hired, and his life immediately changed for the better.

That is the courage of real life. In this example, difficult decisions had to be made and in each case the person did what they believed was right no matter what others thought.

Unfortunately, it is easy to miss the courageous efforts that people with intellectual challenges and their families display every day. Their willingness to make sacrifices, their ability to harness the strength of the human spirit to conquer their fears and their persistence in searching for true acceptance are all powerful forms of courage. For people with developmental disabilities, courage means facing a society that sometimes judges you because you look or sound different. It means attempting to live a full and rewarding life, the way you choose, even though there are those around you who can be insensitive or intolerant. For people with intellectual challenges, things that others might take for granted can require great courage.


The following are just a few of the ways that courage is displayed by men and women with developmental disabilities every day.

Listening to people tell you what you will never be able to do, and believing they are wrong is an act of courage.

Having the willingness to forgive those, who through their ignorance, refuse to accept you as an equal is an act of courage.

Refusing to focus on the things you can’t do, and instead concentrating on what you can accomplish is an act of courage.

Standing up for yourself when no one else will is an act of courage.

Facing each day with a positive attitude even though you live with serious medical conditions that anyone would find discouraging is an act of courage.

Refusing to judge others because you personally know how painful judgment can be is an act of courage.

Attempting new challenges that test you physically and mentally, and not being afraid to fail, is an act of courage.

Treating others with the respect and dignity you know they deserve, even if it is not returned, is an act of courage.

Having faith in the basic goodness of human beings and trusting that they will someday accept you as a person instead of reducing you to a diagnosis is an act of courage.

Accepting who you are and knowing that the world is a better place because you are a part of it is an act of courage.


Obviously courage is something we all need from time to time, but for people with intellectual challenges and their families it is a daily fact of life. To endure decades of tests, evaluations, plans, programs and medical procedures is not easy. They are forced to live with situations and conditions that most of us will never encounter. We only have to pay attention and be aware of their efforts and sacrifices to see that their lives are an unending series of courageous acts. Instead of judging them for what they cannot do, we should appreciate their perseverance and determination to live their lives to the fullest under what are often incredibly difficult circumstances.

The next time you witness an act of courage, stop and think about those who have to brave every day of their lives because they have no choice.

Would you or I have the courage to face the challenges endured by people with developmental disabilities?

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Giving Thanks

Michael Crawley - Saturday, November 16, 2013

We have reached the time of year when we pause and take a moment to give thanks for the abundance that we each enjoy in our lives. For most of us, the blessings far outweigh the problems - but it’s still easy to fall into the habit of focusing on the wrong things. A human life is so brief that it’s a shame to spend it complaining about what we don’t have instead of appreciating what we do have. During this busy holiday season, we should each take a little time to consider the people and things in our lives that we are thankful for. We should try to resist getting so caught up in the rush of our daily lives that we miss the beauty that exists all around us and fills our days with happiness. 
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The Right to Inclusion

Michael Crawley - Saturday, November 02, 2013

No one wants to be alone. No one wants to be left out. No one wants to be ignored, and certainly no one wants to be discriminated against. We all have the desire to participate fully in society and to interact with others in a meaningful way. We all want to be treated as equals, and we all want to be treated with dignity as human beings. This is no less true for people with developmental disabilities.

For too many years these individuals were ignored, neglected and even abused through no fault of their own. This behavior occurred mostly out of ignorance; however, that is no excuse. To deny people their right to participate fully in their community is wrong, whatever the reason. Everyone, no matter what their disability may be, wants to contribute to this life. They want to have their thoughts and ideas understood. They want to be respected. They want to be included in activities and events that are important to them.

Inclusion of those who have intellectual challenges is not only personally satisfying for them it is an excellent opportunity for society to experience firsthand the pleasure of interacting with individuals that they may have had limited contact with in the past. It is an opportunity to knock down the barriers that have kept 3% of the population from being accepted as full-fledged members of society. Inclusion is important because every person must have the opportunity to learn, to grow and to be accepted.

Society must take the necessary steps to include people with developmental disabilities. Every effort should be made to allow an individual to participate in the activities of his or her choice. The community must be open to everyone with no restrictions. For those who hold political office it is their responsibility to pass laws that make accessibility equal for all citizens. For the courts it is incumbent upon them to enforce existing laws that enable those with disabilities to have equal access to everything the community has to offer. Potential employers have an obligation to provide individuals with developmental disabilities the opportunity to have a job. Educators have a responsibility to make adaptions to their curriculum and teaching methods so that those who have intellectual challenges are not left behind in the classroom.

In a sense, all of us can take an active role in assuring that every citizen, regardless of any issues they might face, has the appropriate level of interaction in the community that they desire.

Inclusion benefits everyone. For those who have been treated like second class citizens and worse, being included in the life of their community is enriching and rewarding in countless ways. It provides the opportunity to make meaningful connections with other people, including the chance to make new friends and to develop healthy relationships built on mutual respect. It increases the self-esteem of those who are finally accepted for who they are instead of being rejected because of insensitive labels. But they are not the only ones who benefit from inclusion. Society itself is improved immeasurably when it makes the effort to include all of it citizens as active participants in the community.

When we make the necessary commitment to involve everyone in all areas of daily life it makes us more thoughtful and considerate. We are kinder, gentler and more compassionate when we consider the needs of others instead of focusing exclusively on ourselves. We learn patience, tolerance and acceptance as we develop an appreciation for what is really important in life. As we help those who have intellectual challenges change their lives for the better, we are also transformed. Inclusion brings us together. It breaks down barriers while creating the opportunity for dialog between people who have far more in common than was previously thought.

Every person, in their own way, has something to contribute to our world. When they are denied the opportunity to make that contribution we all lose. But when we learn to practice inclusion we change the dynamics of our culture. We begin to reflect the inherit goodness that we are all capable of. That is why we must be willing to include those who have often struggled to find acceptance. We can no longer allow them to be ignored or forgotten.

It is morally wrong for someone to be purposely left behind because we find it inconvenient to invest the time and effort to ensure they are included in life.

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Our Mission

Michael Crawley - Saturday, October 19, 2013
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Michael Crawley - Saturday, October 05, 2013

Equality is an all-inclusive concept, however, far too many of us feel free to make exceptions at will. Why do we find it easy to believe that some people are equals while, at the same time, we are convinced that others are not? What do we base our assumptions on? What criteria do we use to compare ourselves to others? And how does it feel to realize that we are the ones not being treated as equals?

For equality to be real, it absolutely must apply to everyone - and that includes men, women and children with intellectual challenges. Every person, no matter what their IQ, cognitive function or mental acuity might be, must be accepted as a completely equal member of society. For true equality to exist, there can be no exceptions.

Equality is a profoundly important truth, and yet many are still not willing to recognize it. They are convinced that if a person is nonverbal, or has autism or Down syndrome or some other type of challenge they are less than equal. These people feel superior to those who need supports and services to live as independently as possible. They look down on individuals who require 24 hour care. They are quick to pass judgment on anyone who looks or acts differently than them. They are certain that the 3% of the population with developmental disabilities is not equal to the other 97%.

Believing that inequality is natural, and therefore acceptable, tears at the fabric of our culture. It provides an unjustifiable excuse to prevent people from reaching their potential. It makes their needs invisible to us. Thinking that inequality is a valid point of view allows us to rationalize why it is okay for individuals with great power to take advantage of those with less power. It becomes far too easy for society to neglect people who are vulnerable, because men and women without a voice are easier to ignore. It leads us on a downward spiral until we actually begin to believe that some lives are not worth as much as others.

Tragically, if we do not begin to endorse equality for all, we are doomed to repeat the past. A past filled with disrespect and abuse. A past that created unnecessary suffering and hardship. A past where so many were left behind. But that does not have to be our future - if we are willing to learn from our mistakes.

The belief that we are all equal is the highest ideal human beings can aspire to.

Equality has to be at the very core of our values because it increases the level of tolerance we have for others. It allows us to appreciate the fact that people can contribute to society no matter what their particular challenges might be. In essence, it makes the world a better place for all of us because it allows everyone to live with dignity.

Once we subscribe to the idea that all people are completely equal, we begin to stand up for their rights. We provide them with the range of assistance they need and deserve. We see them not as statistics but as people who deserve the opportunity to live and thrive. Believing in equality enriches our lives. It creates in us the desire to reach out to everyone regardless of their circumstances. It makes us want to take action immediately, and not wait. We realize that the injustice endured by others is something that cannot be tolerated. We develop a willingness to accept responsibility for the well-being of those who are vulnerable.

That is why our acceptance of equality is so critical. It recognizes the worth of every individual above and beyond anything else. It rejects bias and prejudice and replaces them with tolerance and inclusion. It allows people to be accepted for who they are - not for who we want them to be. Equality is the natural outcome when we practice diversity. It is the life affirming result of compassion. Embracing the concept of equality is a moral imperative because it inspires us to act in a positive and benevolent way which is vital in the fight against the injustice that too many people with developmental disabilities still face.

Equality allows society to understand that our perceived differences are nothing more than self-imposed illusions that have no basis in reality. It convinces us that judgments, made without the facts, are wrong and can divide us. It teaches us that trying to categorize human beings with convenient labels causes us to form unfair and inaccurate opinions of people we don’t really know. But most importantly, it clearly shows that it is our shared humanity that binds us together in this life.

Being considered “normal” is meaningless. Being considered equal is life changing.

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Michael Crawley - Saturday, September 21, 2013
It is a sad fact that we do not hesitate to judge each other. This usually happens quickly and with little or no evidence to support our conclusions. We form unfounded opinions based on nothing more than appearance, the way someone moves or the way they talk. None of those things actually tell us anything important about the person, and yet we accept or reject individuals constantly based on our immediate response to their physical presence. It is completely unfair to the people we are so quick to judge, and we also cheat ourselves out of the opportunity to get to know many interesting people who could eventually become very important in our lives.

This is never truer than when it comes to the way the public sometimes reacts to individuals with intellectual challenges. Thankfully there are many people who willingly accept those whose appearance or behavior may seem different in some way. They are tolerant and respectful, and they do not judge those they do not know. This is how it should be. Unfortunately, there are others who are not so enlightened. They immediately decide they want nothing to do with a person they perceive as being different.

Each one of us believes that we are important and that we have something unique to offer to the world, and we are right. Whatever our physical appearance may be, whether we struggle to express ourselves or if we are restricted in our ability to be active, we are still convinced that we matter, that we are relevant and that we are irreplaceable. But for some reason there are those who do not believe that is true for people with developmental disabilities. Because their appearance, lack of social skills or mobility issues can make them stand out from the crowd, they are shunned by those who will not make the effort to get to know them as a person.

For many people, being in the presence of someone with an intellectual challenge makes them rush to judgment based on nothing more than a brief exchange that does not allow them the opportunity to actually interact with that individual on a meaningful level.

An example would be encountering a young adult with Down syndrome who is dealing with significant hearing loss which makes it difficult for him to control the volume of his voice. Let’s suppose that Robert goes to a nice restaurant with his mother. There are about 50 other people dining. After being seated, he becomes very excited as he looks over all the choices on the menu. His voice rises to a level that draws the attention of those at surrounding tables. His mother does her best to remind him that they are inside in a public place and therefore he should lower his voice, but it is no use. Robert is so happy to be eating out that her admonitions go unheeded.

In this case there would probably be a variety of reactions from the other diners. Some would feel uneasy and wish that the host had seated him farther away. Some, without even realizing it, would stare at his table and wonder just what exactly is “wrong with him”. Others might feel sympathy for his mother because she “has the burden of caring for him her whole life”. In each case they would have formed an opinion about Robert without knowing anything about him as a person.

For those who felt uncomfortable in the restaurant and rushed to judgment, it would benefit them to stop and carefully consider their inappropriate reactions. What made them feel the way they did?  Was it unfamiliarity? Have they never been around a person with Down syndrome? Do they not personally know anyone with a developmental disability? Or is it something more unpleasant? Perhaps they actually believe that “people like that” should not be allowed in a public place. Maybe they think that Robert is not their equal and that he should stay around “his own kind”. Heartbreakingly, there could even be some who think that, because Robert had Down syndrome, he should not have been allowed to be born.

Fortunately, there would be others in the restaurant that would see a person who was obviously overjoyed to be dining out. They would see his unrestrained excitement over the available food choices. They would see someone who was loved by a caring parent and who returned that affection without hesitation. They would see two people who were happy to be out of the house and enjoying each other’s company. They might wonder if they were there to celebrate a special occasion such as a birthday. They would avoid jumping to conclusions about Robert as a person, and they would simply accept the situation for what it was; two human beings engaging in one of the normal activities of society that we all enjoy.

Judgment is wrong because it hurts both the innocent person it’s directed at and also the person who engages in such limited and shallow thinking. When we judge someone who has an intellectual challenge, without really knowing them, it serves no worthwhile purpose. It only reinforces stereotypes that people have fought against all their lives, while adding insensitivity and intolerance to the world. This type of judgment is morally unjust because it creates barriers to acceptance for those who have done nothing to deserve such treatment.

On the other hand, when you meet someone who has a developmental disability they are usually more than willing to accept you just the way you are. They are far less likely to judge you on a superficial level, and most of the time they see you as a potential friend. The world would be a far more compassionate place if we all took this approach with everyone we encounter on a daily basis. We can learn a great deal from the very people we are so quick to label, if we will just keep an open mind and not form opinions until we get to know them as a person.

But for those that are inclined to judge individuals like Robert, they would do well to remember that at any moment they could have a serious accident or medical crisis that could leave them struggling with a life altering intellectual challenge.

How would it feel when they realized they were now being unfairly judged?

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A Success Story

Michael Crawley - Sunday, September 08, 2013

Each morning more than 40 men and women with intellectual challenges make their way into our building. Some have mobility issues and others have problems with their balance. Some deal with tremors, and some with seizures. Others have difficulty with their vision and some with their hearing. Others are almost nonverbal, while some love to talk but their speech is difficult to understand. But no matter what specific issues each person lives with, they all have one thing in common; they are employees of the Meadows Center for Opportunity.

Each day when they come into our facility, their job is always waiting for them. They never have to worry about layoffs or cutbacks. No matter what the economy is like, their jobs are secure for as long as they want them. They will always be allowed to work at their own comfortable pace, and they will never be pressured to work faster or to produce more. And even as they age, and their abilities decline, they do not have to be concerned about being replaced. They will always be a welcome part of our family.

Throughout their lives, the men and women we employ have defied the odds. Most of them have had significant and even life threatening health problems that they and their families have courageously overcome. Many were told that they would never be able to work at a “real” job. They have spent their lives fighting against the ignorance and intolerance that is too often directed at people with developmental disabilities. They have acquired vocational skills that will be valuable to them for the rest of their lives. They have gained the confidence necessary to attempt new tasks. Their ability to interact appropriately in a social context has improved which has earned them the trust and respect of their coworkers, and they have been accepted for themselves. Our employees have faced life altering challenges that most of us have been spared and yet they have triumphed. They are productive members of society.

Their amazing achievements are the result of their incredible hard work and their willingness to test themselves and to grow as human beings. These individuals are leading positive lives while dealing with a wide variety of intellectual, physical and emotional challenges. However, it would be completely wrong to think of them as “victims”. They are survivors. They are perfect examples of the power of the human spirit, and it’s that strength which has enabled some of our workers to remain with us for 20, 25 and even 30 years. Their longevity with our organization is a testament to their desire to be treated as equal members of society. Their employment at the Meadows has become one of the most important aspects of their lives. Their jobs fill their time with meaning and give them an identity that they are rightfully proud of.

The fact that they find their jobs to be rewarding and fulfilling is critically important because each afternoon our workers head back to the reality of their personal lives where some cannot tie their shoes. Some do not know their age. Some cannot remember their phone number. Some cannot tell time, and some cannot read or write. But despite these issues, they feel good about themselves because they have spent the day performing a variety of jobs, including multi-step complex tasks, with complete accuracy, that provide beneficial services to businesses and the public. They have achieved what many people thought was impossible. They have withstood the physical demands of their job and they have risen to the challenge of thinking in new and creative ways. They have experienced the satisfaction of performing at their personal best, and they have enjoyed the camaraderie of working together as part of a team to reach specific goals. Their lives are richer and fuller because of their employment experience, and it has added immeasurably to their self-confidence and self-esteem.

For over three decades we have fulfilled our mission to employ adults with developmental disabilities. We have served our community and the state of Oklahoma with professionalism, offering a variety of services that more than 3,000 customers statewide count on, while at the same time we have been honored to play an important role in the lives of hundreds of families who have loved ones with intellectual challenges.

The current success of our organization is the direct result of the dedication and commitment of the men and women who have worked with us through the years. We are incredibly proud of the individuals we employ. They inspire us in countless ways, but most importantly they demonstrate what a person can accomplish when they are given the opportunity, the support and the tools to succeed.

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Dreams Come True

Michael Crawley - Tuesday, March 10, 2020

At 6:00 a.m. the alarm goes off. Hoping to put off the inevitable, you reach over and push the snooze button. However, you realize you’re not going back to sleep because your mind is quickly consumed by all of the reasons you don’t want to go to work.  
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The Business of Trust

Michael Crawley - Tuesday, February 18, 2020

In the business world, long-term success can be elusive, but the Meadows has been able to achieve it because of just one word: TRUST. 
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A Meaningful Job

Michael Crawley - Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Employment is a crucial part of every person’s life. Obviously, the financial reward for working is necessary to sustain ourselves - but, in reality, being employed is much more than that.  
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A New Decade of Service

Michael Crawley - Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Although there is much debate over whether 2020 or 2021 is the start of the next decade, for our purposes, we are going to look out over the next ten years starting January 1, 2020. 
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The Truth

Michael Crawley - Tuesday, December 03, 2019

It is an undeniable fact that human beings have always been willing to pass judgment and jump to conclusions about people who they believe are different from them. Unfortunately, this is particularly true when it comes to individuals with developmental disabilities.

These negative perceptions occur because we allow our emotions to guide our thinking instead of seeking the truth which can require effort and an open mind. Consequently, we are quick to label people with challenges and to categorize them for our own convenience. We fail to understand that no two people are the same and that each individual has their own personality and character. But we are, unfortunately, eager to form an opinion about their life without knowing a thing about them.

Here are five common situations that we are all familiar with. In each case, you encounter a person you think cannot possibly be a productive member of society.

You are shopping at the mall when two individuals walk past you. Suddenly one of them collapses with a seizure. You watch in shock as the convulsions run their course. Certain that the person lives in terror with the knowledge that a seizure could occur at any moment, you feel great sympathy for them. You assume their quality of life is compromised and that because of their epilepsy they cannot accomplish anything of significance.


You are eating at a restaurant when a person comes in with another adult. You can’t help but stare as they follow their hostess to their table. The individual has partial paralysis on one side of their body and there is visible scarring that indicates that they have endured multiple surgeries. The person walks with a pronounced limp, and you can see that their arm is immobile. You can’t imagine how they make it through the day living with those kinds of issues.


You are waiting to check out at the store. The individual in front of you is trying to communicate with the cashier, but their speech is extremely difficult to understand. The people behind you become impatient as the person struggles to convey their thoughts to the cashier who just wants them to move along and get out of the way. You feel great pity for the individual as you wonder what kind of “affliction” could’ve caused their inability to communicate clearly.


You are in line to buy a ticket for a movie when an individual standing with their mother becomes agitated about something. Very quickly the person’s behavior escalates and they begin to yell as they lose control of their emotions. Their mother tries to help them calm down, but she is not successful in getting the person to relax. You and others watch with silent disapproval as you harshly judge her lack of parenting skills for allowing this to happen in public.


You are waiting for an elevator. The doors open and a person carefully steps out pushing a walker. Their balance is precarious and their legs seem stiff and rigid. It is obvious that they would not be able to walk without the assistive device. You suspect their life is limited in countless ways because of their lack of mobility, and you can’t help thinking it would be better for them to stop trying to walk altogether and to just use a wheelchair.

What do these five people have in common?...... Yes, they each have a disability. Yes, it affects certain areas of their lives, and yes, their diagnosis is often used to unfairly define them. But what might surprise you is one other thing that they have in common. Something positive. Something meaningful. Something that deserves to be acknowledged.

All of these individuals are successfully employed at the Meadows.

Along with almost forty other men and women with intellectual challenges, these five individuals work each day at a variety of jobs that not only provide them with a hard-earned paycheck but also build self-esteem and self-confidence. They learn vocational skills, but, even more importantly, they are given every opportunity to reach their personal potential.

But when these same individuals go out in public, people rush to judge them based on nothing more than appearances. That kind of narrow-mindedness is unfair and unjust.

Obviously, there is an important lesson that must be learned.

When we encounter a person with an intellectual, physical or emotional challenge, we should treat them just like we would anyone else. They deserve to be understood and accepted for who they are as a person. They deserve to be treated with dignity. They deserve to be respected.

The men and women we proudly employ are perfect examples of what people with developmental disabilities can achieve in a positive work setting that offers support and encouragement.

The truth is simple. Every person, regardless of what their challenges happen to be, has the right to live their best life.

That is what our employees do every day.

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Why The Meadows Matters

Michael Crawley - Monday, November 11, 2019
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It Is Not Too Late!

Michael Crawley - Thursday, October 24, 2019

The Meadows annual Walk-A-Thon, held on Saturday, October 12th, was a tremendous success, and we want to thank everyone who participated.  
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Why We Are Not Hiring

Michael Crawley - Sunday, February 25, 2018

People frequently contact the Meadows to see if we are currently hiring individuals with intellectual challenges. Unfortunately, as much as we wish we could, the answer is NO. 
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The Men and Women of the Meadows

Michael Crawley - Sunday, February 18, 2018

The mission of our organization is to provide employment and vocational training for adults with developmental disabilities as well as other intellectual and physical challenges. 
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Physical Challenges

Michael Crawley - Sunday, February 11, 2018

For those of you who are familiar with the Meadows, you know that on this blog we focus primarily on intellectual challenges. That is because each of the men and women we employ has an IQ of 70 or less, which is the state’s criteria of determining a developmental disability. 
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The Meadows
Center for Opportunity

1000 South Kelly
Edmond, Oklahoma

phone: 405.348.4470
fax: 405.340.5395