Park Lawn is a non-profit organization providing an array of services that include adult developmental training, vocational services and nine residential facilities. The mission of Park Lawn is to provide services that promote independence, choice and access to community for people with developmental disabilities.
Park Lawn believes that individuals with developmental disabilities shall be afforded many and varied opportunities to explore, develop and master capabilities equivalent to prevailing society. We make certain that every individual be encouraged to seek choices which are real and appropriate; dignity, where individuals are listened to and their thoughts and opinions valued; respect, where choices are honored, self-esteem is promoted and consideration is given for abilities, differences and individuality, where we honor that part that makes us human beings with individual physical, psychological and social abilities and needs.
Park Lawn provides services for individuals whose primary disability is mental retardation. In most instances it is accompanied by physical disabilities, behavioral challenges and medical needs. While some of the more profoundly handicapped individuals are turned away by other agencies because of the high cost and extensive training and expertise required to provide services, Park Lawn is unique in that our program population includes a wide range of disabilities from mild to severe/profound.
Park Lawn was founded in 1955 by a small group of parents who decided that the national and state legislatures that deemed their children “uneducable” because of mental retardation were naïve to their true potential. These parents were determined to provide education for their children and began by holding classes in a room donated by the First Congregational Church of Oak Lawn. As more families joined they moved to larger space provided by the First United Methodist Church of Evergreen Park. By 1968 the group raised enough money to erect a school in Oak Lawn and hire staff. As the children aged and their needs changed, Park Lawn expanded its programs. Today these programs include adult developmental training, workshop, supported employment, job placement, high school transition, 9 residential facilities and home based services. Currently more than 300 persons, eighteen and older from Chicago and the Southwest Suburbs benefit from their participation in Park Lawn’s programs.
Park Lawn’s array of programs and services gives individuals with developmental disabilities an opportunity to lead full and productive lives. These programs promote independence, choice, understanding and acceptance through meaningful life experiences. They improve ones overall quality of life and instill a sense of purpose, security and accomplishment in oneself. It takes individuals previously relegated to the periphery of society and gives them the opportunity to become contributing members of their community.
Park Lawn’s vocational services programs are tiered. This allows for easy transition from one level to another. As individuals enter a program and gain skills, dexterity and experience they move to a job more challenging and suited to their interests and ability.
Park Lawn’s introductory vocational program is Adult Developmental Training. At this level the focus is on developing life skills and dexterity. As skills are acquired individuals progress toward the next level.
Park Lawn’s Workshop Program can be viewed as the gateway to mainstream employment. Here individuals hold a job for which they earn a wage and benefits. They develop skills, gain experience, and receive classroom instruction and training as needed. When ready, they transition into community jobs through our Supported Employment Program (SEP) where the overall goal is to find desirable and suitable jobs for each person.
A growing number of individuals graduating from high school special education programs are seeking further placement. Their options are limited by the number of openings, guidelines for entry, and the student’s ability to adjust to new settings. In 2006 Park Lawn established a High School Transition Program with area school districts to facilitate the transfer from high school programs to private services.
Park Lawn collaborates with the Department of Rehabilitative Services and assists referrals in finding jobs through Park Lawn’s Community Job Placement Program. A job developer interviews the candidate, determines abilities and interests, finds prospective employment, and helps the individual apply for the job. After successful placement, some follow up support is provided.
In January 2006 a Senior Retirement Program was initiated to address the needs of individuals phasing out of programs due to age or health. In the Senior Program emphasis is placed on maintaining functional skills within a nurturing environment.