Costanoa Commons web site
Costanoa Commons
November 2015
And so we begin...
Like many parents, we have spent a lot of our energy worrying about how our children, whose abilities are quite different from those of most other people, would fare in the future.

When they are without our family, how will they meet their complex needs and be able to get out in the world, find friends, and create the life they want?

Helping our daughters and sons plan for the future led us to join with others in our situation, sharing our skills and resources, to build Costanoa Commons.

We all came together and bought a unique parcel very near downtown Santa Cruz, CA. On this land we plan to build housing and, at the heart of our vision for Costanoa Commons, establish a neighborhood organic farm where people with disabilities and others grow healthy food and build community.

We invite you to learn more about our progress and vision by visiting our website and Facebook page.

A tree grows in Santa Cruz
A gathering at the site of the future farm.November 14: What a lovely first Arbor Day we had today!

We planted a Jonagold Apple, and with Ryan's help, tamped down the soil around it, then with Scottie's help, sprinkled cover crop seed at the base and finally, topped it all off with wood chips hauled by Claire, Axel and Thomas and sprinkled at the base by Noah and others.

Everyone had a hand in the day and our farm manager, Liz, finished by circling the tree with deer fencing to protect it from our four-legged neighbors.

Jake affirmed his desire to have music at the farm and Noah wholeheartedly agreed.  Rebecca seems to be our budding photographer, taking snapshots of the slides Liz lovingly prepared to give us an idea of the beauty and diversity possible on our farm.

Mother Nature will likely water our tree in tonight. What a great start to our venture!

The dialects of our tribe
By Kirby Wilkins

In Googling our non-profit's name, I was struck by the fact that native inhabitants of our area (the Ohlone, later known as Costanoan) spoke eight different dialects or languages, and it occurred to me that our Costanoan tribes, currently eleven, also speak unique dialects—with our children who have disabilities—dialects known by us and caregivers, but unknown outside our tribe.

Strangers will often listen sympathetically when I try to explain life with a disabled child, but often they don't really get it. I've written a book—Life With Jake, A Father's Story—trying to explain, and I know each of us has a book in progress. I think we might better know our children and one another if we could explain how we communicate. And since we all get it, that may be easier than with strangers.

To that end, and speaking only for myself, let me begin by briefly describing how I communicate with Jake who, since he lives in two homes, speaks several dialects. Cerebral palsy limits him physically but not cognitively. He can't speak, but he's bright and can read and write. We've had a lot of help from speech therapists, adaptive communication experts, including The Bridge School. I often think people are unaware how fully tuned in he is to all conversation. Embarrassing at times. He's fully present.

If asked a yes/no question, an open mouth means yes, often emphasized by high muscle tone (spastic is the common term) turning his body into an exclamation point: wide open mouth and full extension of legs. That's a huge YES. Squinched face accompanied by similar body language means no. Spasticity impedes his access to a communication device. Since typing is difficult, he's inclined toward one or two word responses. Sufficiently motivated, however, he will produce full sentences.

Much conversation is done without machines. I talk (ramble might be his term) about issues of the day that often involve food, plans for the week ahead, where we should go for a bike ride, what we should buy, who should we see, etc. When he wants to explore a particular subject, he interrupts with a grunt, and we go into yes/no mode. It's a surprisingly fluid conversation and, since he often lacks access to a speaking device, fundamental to our daily life, an intuitive understanding that has taught me so much.

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