New Horizons adds life skills center

Debbie Blank | The Herald-TribuneNew Horizons Rehabilitation (from left) board member Mark Dunevant, program manager Brandy Bittner and executive director Marie Dausch officially open the New Horizons Young Adult Life Skills Center Nov. 18 with the help of Sunman Area Chamber of Commerce President Natasha Bischoff, Vice President Anna Ibold and director John Kruse.

SUNMAN — Officials at New Horizons Rehabilitation Inc. (, Batesville, recently purchased a former child care facility at 13146 State Road 101, Sunman, in the Penntown area and have upgraded the building for a life skills program for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, reports executive director Marie Dausch.

After paint and new flooring were added to the interior, it opened Nov. 3. An open house was held in mid-November for the New Horizons Young Adult Life Skills Center, which serves persons under 40.

Nineteen adults attend programs there weekdays between 7:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Dausch says, “My goal is to have a combination of part-timers and full-timers” numbering between 60-70.

According to the director, not only has the number of individuals served grown, but the needs of individuals and scope of services also have changed. The space in this satellite building offers flexibility to meet those needs. 

The center’s purpose “is all about (giving consumers) life experiences,” the director notes.

Rooms, each equipped with a bathroom, are set up as learning centers. They include an art room, prevocational skill area and café.

The exercise and music room, with mirrors and carpeting, “is a real fun room to be active in,” she points out. The recreation and social room contains a sofa, easy chairs and two tables. She imagines a game day happening regularly there.

A kitchen is used to create dishes ranging from birthday cakes to Thanksgiving items, “simple stuff” for clients who are “pretty low functioning.”

The Snoezelen multisensory room is named for a European concept that humans need to use all five senses. A sign on the door explains, “This room is soothing and stimulating, environmentally designed to deliver stimuli to various senses.” It has a bean bag chair and mattress on which adults can relax while touching fiber optic strands of lights that change color, listening to music, sniffing scents and watching images projected on a wall and bubbles in a 4-foot-tall clear tube change colors.

There even is a changing room. “A lot wear adult diapers,” according to the director.

A conference room equipped for training and meetings and two offices complete the layout.

During the activities that program manager Brandy Bittner plans, “we work on a lot of life skills. We do kitchen activities,” such as baking and learning how to prepare healthy snacks. 

“We just got recycling containers” so clients are learning “what we can and can’t recycle.” 

A recent grant from the Indiana Arts Commission has been used to pay for art teacher Annette Geil to instruct the adults once a week. “We are getting ready to work on some canvases” as clients get creative with paints. Recyclable art has included making sculptures out of water bottles. Bittner hopes to open the doors for a community art show in the future.

Consumers have just planted spider plant starts in an indoor garden. They will care for the plants until spring, when they will transplant them to an outdoor garden, which also will contain vegetables.

Instructors with Keys to Success, Cincinnati, music therapy program visit three days a week to lead the adults in playing instruments and singing. Family and community members are invited to concerts usually twice a year. 

With fees from a recent New Horizons 5K, “we are now able to start a fitness program as well,” Bittner reports. The nonprofit is partnering with Anytime Fitness to pair clients with personal trainers either at the Batesville gym or Penntown center. The successful walk/run will become an annual event to keep the dollars coming in. “Our date next year is Oct. 18.”

According to Dausch, volunteers are important “as they bring special interests to the recreation and social skills programs.” Persons who would like to share their talents at the Penntown facility may contact Brandy Bittner at 812-290-5331 or

The program manager’s job “entails a lot of different things. I oversee the day program and the staff and create programs. I write grants.”

Funding is the biggest challenge for New Horizons leaders. According to Bittner, “Obviously, it costs money to provide great programs and there’s not a lot of reimbursement from the state. It makes it challenging for us to put together solid programs.”

Her job’s rewards come from the adults and their innocence, she says. “They never judge you. You’re going to smile several times during your day. It’s a really happy place.”

Debbie Blank can be contacted at or 812-934-4343, Ext. 113. 

Nonprofit is a resource

• In addition to facility-based services in Batesville and Sunman, New Horizons provides services to individuals in their homes and in the community, job placement services, residential supports and a work services program at the Batesville facility. 

• For more information about the programs and services or for a tour of either facility, persons may contact the agency at 812-934-4528.  

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