Like many women, Emily Stone loves pretty clothes, sparkly jewels and spending time with her friends. “She’s extremely social, and that’s something people don’t always realize,” says her mother Genie Stone. “She does not talk, but she does use her voice, for example if something makes her happy, she’ll squeal. She can understand you and carry on a conversation if you ask her yes or no questions.”
Emily, now 46, has been coming to DRTC for more than 20 years, and spends her days accomplishing tasks and socializing with friends she’s known since grade school. With a little assistance, Emily and the rest of her friends in the Special Needs Program participate in paid vocational training/subcontract work, learn job skills, exercise, enjoy leisure activities and take community field trips.
In grade school, Emily spent about a year in a mainstream program, but her mom said it didn’t work out that well. “She was maybe 10 or 11 when she and one other child spent time in a first-grade classroom, but it was more for socialization. She also had speech therapy and physical therapy, but she didn’t learn to read. She does know some sight words, but schools really weren’t teaching special needs kids to read back then,” Genie says.
When it came time to graduate, options for much beyond staying home with mom all day were few and far between. DRTC soon launched its Special Needs Program, and Emily’s mom got her registered. Her schoolmates Patty, Jason, Kenny and Heath also joined the program and their community blossomed.
Genie’s voice wavers as she thinks back to those days. “I don’t know what we would have done without DRTC. Not so much for us but for her. We were all just trying to care for our kids, and we’re all still taking care of our children. DRTC has been a lifesaver for us. I don’t think Emily would be 46 if she hadn’t had DRTC. She never wants to miss, she loves her friends, and it just would have been really rough to not have had that. It’s a lifesaver for us.”
Dale Rogers Training Center (DRTC) is the oldest and largest community vocational training and employment center for people with disabilities in Oklahoma. With multiple locations in Oklahoma, DRTC trains or employs approximately 1,000 people with disabilities per year. Visit us online: DRTC.org.