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School of Health Professions students help developmentally disabled adults learn to make sausage at the Local Pig

June 05, 2013

By Greg Peters

Marcella was one of those who enjoyed Developing Potential Inc.'s trip to the Local Pig

When occupational therapy service learning students from the University of Kansas Medical Center were brought together with adults with developmental disabilities and a crew from a local butcher shop for a sausage-making class, it was a match made in hog heaven.

The idea to bring developmentally disabled adults from Developing Potential Inc., a local nonprofit organization, to the Local Pig in Kansas City, Mo., came about when Evan Dean and Keenan Stump, a fellow doctoral student in the KU's therapeutic sciences program, took a sausage-making class at the butcher shop and charcuterie.

Dean says Keenan connected with the owner, and they discussed possibly doing something for some of the families that Keenan works with. (Stump is a speech therapist who works with autistic children.)

"At the same time, I was looking for ways to get some adults who have developmental disabilities connected with local businesses," Dean says.

Dean's students, who are in their first year of the occupational therapy program, had been working a few hours a week at Developing Potential Inc.,  as part of their service learning curriculum, so they were familiar with the class members before spending the afternoon at the Local Pig. Dean and his team approached some of the people who were interested in cooking and asked them to take part in a sausage-making class.

"We love the opportunity to give back to the community," says Alex Pope, co-owner of the Local Pig, which features meats from animals raised humanely on local farms. "We've been very fortunate to have the city support our business, so we're happy to give back when we can."

So on a sunny Wednesday afternoon in May, a spirited group of seven developmentally disabled adults and the occupational therapy students gathered with Developing Potential Inc. staff members Jacob Manthey and Ashley Dewitt at the shop in a gritty area of the industrial East Bottoms to learn the art of sausage-making while exploring the work environment at a small business.

"We haven't done a class for a disabled group before," Pope says. "There were, of course, challenges to teaching a group of disabled students but mostly it just involved us needing to slow down and take more time on each step as well as doing some of the more physical things that we normally have students do."

The workers from the Local Pig wasted little time rolling up their sleeves and helping the participants measure out herbs, mix ingredients and then run the fixings through a sausage press to fill the casings. They made three kinds of sausages and, best of all, the participants got to take samples home.

"I knew that everyone would enjoy the activity and have fun trying something new," Stump says. "I was maybe a little surprised at how everyone just seemed to dive right in and get their hands dirty. I know that I was much more passive when I took that class for the first time, but people were much more fearless. Maybe my biggest surprise is that these opportunities don't exist in more places."

"Working with the Local Pig has been really cool," Dean says. "Those of us in disability professions often look at people and find problems we think need fixing. We try to protect people from making mistakes, and as an unintended consequence, the person with a disability doesn't get to live their life as fully as possible. This gives people a chance to explore their interests and take some risks."

"I had a good time and had fun making sausages," said Tonya, one of the adults from Developing Potential Inc. She added that her favorite part of the afternoon was "everything."

"Our long-term goals are for people with developmental disabilities to make more choices for themselves and live their lives as other adults do," Dean says. "That is, working, going to school, living where they want and with whom they want, having relationships, etc."

Class members explored not only how to make sausage, but new job opportunities and different work surroundings.

"Maybe it's not making sausages but working in a small place with friendly people. Or maybe they like working with food," Dean says. "This experience is a step in helping people explore their interests, so they can make more informed decisions about how they want to live their life."

"The people at the Local Pig look past the disability," Dean adds. "They just see people who want to make sausage -- which is their passion -- so it's a great match."

Below is a video with more images from Developing Potential Inc.'s visit to the Local Pig.


NOTES: Dean's mentor is Winnie Dunn, Ph.D., OTR, FAOTA, chair and professor of the Department of Occupational Therapy. The OT service learning students were Kasha Rebant, Sarah Smith, Megan Williams, and Emily Bourgeois. 

Developing Potential Inc. is a day habilitation program providing on-site and community services to adults with developmental disabilities in the Kansas City area.

Last modified: Jul 26, 2018