About the Author

In 1972, I walked into Willowbrook State School, the notorious institution for the intellectually disabled  ( …. and applied for my first job.  They were hiring several hundred young people that day to work as ‘recreation therapists’ as part of the response to the scathing expose’ by Geraldo Rivera a few months before.  That day forever changed my life.

I worked at Willowbrook for the next five years, and I fell in love over and over again with the amazing people I had in my care.  Someday…. I’m going to write that story, because my memories of that time are very different from the tragic accounts most often heard through books, newspaper articles and documentaries. I learned about the joys and challenges of  autism at Willowbrook, although at that time it was never given a name.

I’ve been hanging out with people on the spectrum ever since.
To contact us here at Juniper Hill Farms     

please email Diane Belnavis at:

All stories and pictures of the guys shared not only with their permission, but with their constant insistence on using every possible photo of them in each and every story on this blog… 

18 responses to “Contact

  1. Guys, I love your website! I am a parent of a man with autism . I started a group in SW Michigan to create a residential farm for adults with autism. Several of our sons will need more support than you require, but we are all about expanding their choices and helping them find their passions. We have incorporated as AACORN Farm; our website is about ready for launching. We have no land yet, but we have a lot of hope. I like how you went about creating your community. You are an inspiration!

  2. Thanks Cindy…. It is always great to hear about other people doing this! There is so much to learn from one another….

  3. Nancy Ledbetter

    I am a retired grandmother of a 14 year old autistic boy. I love him dearly but an concerned about what will happen at age 18. I am not that good with technology but I am investigating Agricultural Communities etc. and I may have to establish residence some where else that has residential care. He does not live with me. That will be another challednge. Thank you for this information.

  4. ThanksNancy! Good luck with everything. what state do you live in?

  5. Nancy Ledbetter

    I live in Charleston, SC.

  6. Maureen McCarry

    Hi Nancy,
    I attended one of your meetings at handicrafters but unfortunately we couldn’t get back since Kevin has been playing basketball with special Olympics and e has had practice. Hs schedule as been packed. I absolute love the housing and All the activities that the guys are doing at juniper hill farms. If there are every any openings
    Available I think Kevin would be a good roommate since he does kno om of the current renters at Juniper Hill Farms. When s he next residential meeting at handicrafters? Maureen McCarry

  7. Maureen McCarry

    Sorry above comment was for Diane

  8. Maureen, Kevin should visit the farm periodically and get to know the guys! That’s how the others ended up living here… they stayed for a weekend here and there, and sometimes for more extended stays. can he come on wednesdays some time? that is when the volunteers come to help out..
    The next meeting at Handicrafters is May 13, Susan Tachau will be talking about her son’s place, Homeworks.

  9. Hello,
    I’m the mother of a 23 year old boy with Nonverbal Learning Disorder. We have been able to work through some tough times, but it has been quite difficult. I’m concerned that we are not providing him with the tools and resources to find his way in life. Your website came up during my search for alternative housing arrangements for him. I’m torn on whether that’s the right approach yet. He needs people around him that understands the issues that he’s trying so hard to overcome. Their not easy to find. Most people do not understand him. We are looking for resources to help us find help for him. Do you have any suggestions?

  10. Hi there-I am so happy to have learned about Juniper Hill Farms! We are in Colorado and have a 21 year old son who is living with an acquired brain injury. We are raising funds to build Tall Tales Ranch and are excited to hear about the success that you all have. Thank you for being so honest and open about your experiences-we will learn a lot from you and hope to come visit one day. Please check out our website to learn about us and our vision.

  11. diane belnavis how are you doing could you please give me a call at 610 380 8397 i am interested in living at juniper hill farms you can reach me at 4pm monday through friday thank you very much justin agnew

  12. Hello. I just visited Juniper Farms and I found it to be a loving environment that promotes family. Thank you so much for allowing me the opportunity to visit and meet the wonderful people that stay at the Farms.

    You all are so very AWESOME!

  13. I am part of a group of parents looking at setting up a similar farmish situation. We have kiddos that have to leave Camphill Special School in July 2018. We are looking at buying a home vs. leasing and so forth. Wondering if we can chit chat to find out more info on how you did it. I actually met you in Philadelphia in the fall of 2016.
    Tracy Gallagher
    Mom of Emily 610.608.5105

  14. Michelle A O'Sullivan

    Hello, I live in Michigan and have a son with Autism and I would like to start a farm in my area. I have no idea what to do or where I should start. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Michelle

  15. Hello, my name is Eveline. I live in Florence, SC and started to work with a 19 y.o. autistic boy. I want to teach him how to express himself through speech and writing. I would appreciate some ideas. He barely ‘talks’ with gestures, some words and sounds. I know he wants to say more but can not. I really want to help him. Thanks for your help.

    • Hi Eveline! The first thing to do is speak to him always as if he understands everything you say, because he does! The most important thing is to ‘presume competence’. When you truly believe that he is a competent and intelligent human being, you will automatically treat him with respect, and he will learn to trust you. Let him know that you know he is ‘in there’ but just can’t express it to you with speech.
      Check out the page ‘United for Communication Choice’ and read some of the stories there about the people who communicate by spelling. Watch some videos! It’s a great start, good luck!

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