What’s Your Story?

PrintDuring Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, we encourage people to learn more about the hundreds of people in this community who have a developmental disability and to recognize that all of us have talents and strengths that we can offer to make this a better place to live.

Statewide, and across the nation, organizations devoted to serving individuals with DD are planning special events in March to raise public awareness of the many abilities people have, regardless of disability. “What’s Your Story” encourages people to get to know someone with a disability to better understand that we are all connected and alike in many ways. In honor of this special month, and this special theme, we want to share the stories of some of the folks we serve in Ross County and we couldn’t wait until March to get started. Check back next week for more of these stories!

Preschooler's Take Meeting with the Mayor


Preschoolers from the Pioneer Center’s integrated preschool classrooms housed at OU-C’s Early Childhood Development Center tackled one of their biggest meetings of the year earlier this week. The kids sat down with Chillicothe’s new mayor, Luke Feeney, at the City Administration Building in downtown Chillicothe. The meeting has become an annual pilgrimage of sorts, in honor of Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, which takes place each March.

After presenting the mayor with the latest copy of the Pioneer School yearbook and a t-shirt commemorating DD Awareness Month, the young students got down to business. Several of the students came prepared with questions and were eager to hear the mayor’s response.  Bella, age 5, jumped in first, asking “What is your favorite part about being the mayor?”

The mayor responded with an honest answer that went over well: “Meetings like this!”

Next up was Zavier, asked the following question with assistance from an augmentative communication device: “What’s your favorite color?”

Green was answer – this also went over well, though one of the children seemed to be hoping for an answer that matched her own. Green was obviously not the answer for her.

Finally, Maele asked the name of the mayor’s new baby, who just turned 5 weeks old. For inquiring minds, the baby boy’s name is Collin.

If you have any other questions for the mayor, be sure to attend Mayor Feeney’s Neighborhood Office Hours event at Allen Elementary School later this month, check www.chillicothe.com and check your local media outlets for the time and date.


Eli's Story



Eli is a ten year old boy who attends the Pioneer School.  He lives with his mom, dad, and sister. His family is his biggest advocate and supports him in every aspect of his life, along with helping to support Autism Awareness.  He is a child who is non-verbal autistic.  While Eli may not be able to speak to you utilizing traditional methods of communication, he still has a lot to say.  He speaks in many different ways using pictures, his body, showing people what he wants, and also making sounds.

He loves to swim, jump, swing, and take walks.  He loves his I-pad and spoons.  Eli at times gets anxious and needs something to fidget to help calm his nerves.  His absolute favorite spoons are long handled but sometimes any silverware will work.  He bends and shapes the spoons until they feel right in his fingers.  He at times seems to not be able to get them right even though he tries really hard.  A lot of times he ends up breaking the spoons.  His mom and dad have a lot of broken and unique formed spoons at their house.  Eli’s dad, mom, and sister Eryne came up with an idea to use his spoons to create works of art that help promote Autism Awareness.  Eli loves this idea and thinks it is really wonderful.  Now his mom isn’t so upset when the spoon breaks because she uses them to help Eli create these beautiful works of art!  This makes Eli really happy and he hopes that his spoon art makes you feel the same way!

-Lovingly submitted by Eli and his family

The Pioneer Center would like to extend their heartfelt thanks for giving us the opportunity to share Eli's story. We encourage you to get to know the stories of the other people we are proud to serve during Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month - March 2016.

eli eli3



Enabling Firsts from Birth: A Series 


Building Skills and Safe Spaces


Learning to change a tire, use a power tool, or do basic home repairs are valuable skills. For many teens, those experiences may entail a bruised thumb, or a bruised ego, but it makes the final product that much more rewarding, especially when it can be done for those in need.


For students Jaki Cousins and Deion Ford, the reward is also knowing that their work will help youngsters who are having a tough time. Jaki and Deion recently completed renovating a space into a Sensory room at Mt. Logan elementary school.


Jaki and Deion are students in the Pioneer Center’s satellite classrooms which are housed at Chillicothe High School. Satellite classrooms offer a specialized curriculum for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. They provide an opportunity for students with special needs to get the education they need in their home school in an integrated setting.  The specialized curriculum includes community service, hands-on learning, self-advocacy and job development opportunities.


The Pioneer Center students were asked to complete a community service and job training project for the Chillicothe City School District (CCSD).  They created a Sensory room.  Sensory rooms are spaces architecturally designed to help people with Autism, brain injury, Dementia, and self-control dis-regulation. The room offers a soothing environment where various senses are engaged through colored and moving lights, various sounds and music, furniture to support movement, different seating positions, and objects of different textures to touch.


The project began when Mt. Logan staff and Principal, Elaine Seimer, asked what types of programs they could do to help the students who have experienced crisis, trauma, health conditions, family issues, and behavioral problems at the start of this school year.  Instead of sharing the traditional ideas of reward and consequence, time-out, in-school suspensions, or the like, they decided to try to create an area that could be used as a little “vacation spot” within the school environment.


“When we decided to put this room in, we asked for permission from our Superintendent, Mr. Jon Saxton, who was quick to agree that we need these types of alternative spaces to assist students in a positive and supportive way.  We then relocated a teacher from a room, asked the Pioneer Center Vocational Job Coach, Bryn McNeal, if he could oversee the project with his students and we created the list of items needed for the space.  The Pioneer Center/CCSD students, Jaki Cousins and Deion Ford, worked on the room every week for about two months.  They shopped for the items, painted the room black, hung up paper to cover the walls, and arranged all of the items in the room,” said Stacy Hazelton, Director of Special Services and Early Childhood Education for Chillicothe City Schools.


She went on to explain that the Sensory room is open to all preschool-grade 6 students who need a positive environment to go to during the day to support emotional and behavioral needs. After training the staff on the benefits of the room, they rushed to implement it into their routine. Donations and a grant paid for the space.


“The space is being used all throughout the day for students accompanied by staff.  The teachers have said that it is nice to have an alternative support in place and that the kids are loving it.  I’m looking forward to adding more rooms in the other buildings and hopefully our new buildings in a few years,” said Hazelton.


The students of the Pioneer Center/CCSD Satellite class look forward to gaining new vocational skills and offering this community service project to other schools in years to come.