Ruth Anne writes:

As a mother to a young woman who has Down syndrome I am curious as to how people with intellectual disabilities are accepted and integrated into the Amish culture.  I live near Xenia, Ohio and I often see Amish people out and about shopping, visiting the doctor, etc., but I have never noticed an Amish person who has Down syndrome or any other obvious intellectual disability.  

Specifically, I would like to know how the mentally challenged Amish are accepted into their society.  Do they receive an education?  Are they encouraged to work alongside the main community?  Are they allowed to marry if they want to?  Do the Amish consider them to be a punishment from God or do they respect and love them as they are?

John responds:

I haven’t had the personal experience having a family member who has Down syndrome, this makes responding to this question difficult, however it is still a general consensus within our community that a Down syndrome child, slow learner child or any child is a Blessing from God.

The original question revolved around Down Syndrome children and their acceptance within the community, the community supports and accepts Down syndrome children very well. In the Lancaster County PA and daughter settlements there are Special Needs Schools that these children go too. There are committee men setup in the different districts or settlements that take care of the education side. There is a possibility that the teacher to student ratio is one to one, and they are sent to the age of 15 or older, depending on the child and the overall situation. Almost always, people go out of their way to communicate with a Special Needs person, because a lot of times they are very personal and very upbeat and are a sponge for attention.

I have a cousin Timmy that is a Down syndrome person, I understand that every day he goes to work with his father.  There are also other areas of support like the Lighthouse Vocational Services in New Holland, PA, I had heard that they hold annual support auctions.  I have never heard of them getting married, is it discouraged?? I don’t know.

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John Stoltzfus is a father of five and member of a Pennsylvania Old Order Amish community. John works in product design for a local farm supply company. In his spare time he creates computer-generated art, which you can view here.

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