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Chloe Fetzer throws a pot with help from instructor Ken Hankins at Shiloh Pottery in Hampstead Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019. Fetzer, 24, who has autism, finds the pottery lessons therapeutic, but is difficult to get it officially added to her covered treatements.
Chloe Fetzer throws a pot with help from instructor Ken Hankins at Shiloh Pottery in Hampstead Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019. Fetzer, 24, who has autism, finds the pottery lessons therapeutic, but is difficult to get it officially added to her covered treatements. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

On a morning in early November, Chloe Fetzer was throwing pots on the wheel while her instructor Ken Hankins helped guide her hands to shape the clay. Later, they glazed a mug by dipping it in a container of glaze.

Fetzer, 24, is on the autism spectrum. Since she started pottery classes in July, her family has seen occupational therapeutic benefits for her.

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“She’s really blossomed. She’s more verbal. She walks in and talks right to Mr. Ken and anybody else in the studio and knows exactly what to do,” said her mother, Laura Fetzer. “She feels very self-confident. She’s not looking to myself for reassurance or anything. She knows exactly what to do.”

Laura Fetzer wears an "Autism Mom" shirt as her daughter Chloe Fetzer works with instructor Ken Hankins during a therapeutic pottery class at Shiloh Pottery in Hampstead Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019. Fetzer, 24, who has autism, finds the pottery lessons therapeutic, but is difficult to get it officially added to her covered treatements.
Laura Fetzer wears an "Autism Mom" shirt as her daughter Chloe Fetzer works with instructor Ken Hankins during a therapeutic pottery class at Shiloh Pottery in Hampstead Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019. Fetzer, 24, who has autism, finds the pottery lessons therapeutic, but is difficult to get it officially added to her covered treatements. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

Learning pottery has been an interest of Fetzer’s for a few years, her mother said. She found Hankins and Shiloh Pottery, at 1027 Brodbeck Road, because he has experience teaching students with disabilities.

Chloe Fetzer is part of the Self-Directed Services program, through the Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA), meaning that rather than having an agency chosen for her, she decides who provides her services and which programs to enroll in.

Julie Bargeski has been her support broker for about three years. She describes her role as similar to a human resources department, helping with hiring, budget and payroll for staff who work with Fetzer.

One focus is activities that bring Fetzer out into the community, Bargeski said. For example, she is a member of the Y, where she exercises.

Right now, Fetzer’s pottery classes haven’t been approved to be funded in her DDA budget, but Bargeski and her family hope that soon could change.

Bargeski said that in her experience with arts classes, “Its always a struggle, always a lot of work to get it part of the plan.”

Chloe Fetzer scores a clay cup before attaching a handle to it during a therapeutic pottery class with Ken Hankins at Shiloh Pottery in Hampstead Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019. Feltzer, 24, who has autism, finds the pottery lessons therapeutic, but is difficult to get it officially added to her covered treatements.
Chloe Fetzer scores a clay cup before attaching a handle to it during a therapeutic pottery class with Ken Hankins at Shiloh Pottery in Hampstead Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019. Feltzer, 24, who has autism, finds the pottery lessons therapeutic, but is difficult to get it officially added to her covered treatements. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

Laura Fetzer said she has seen changes in her daughter while she works in the pottery studio.

“She’s getting her hands dirty, which she normally doesn’t like, which doesn’t seem to bother her at all,” she said.

Chloe Fetzer often has sensitivity to sound, but “the slow hum of the pottery wheel doesn’t seem to be bothering her at all,” her mother said. “Just, a lot of things have been rolling off her back. She’s making good eye contact, which is hard for her, with Mr. Ken or whomever she’s speaking with.”

Chloe Fetzer throws a pot with help from instructor Ken Hankins at Shiloh Pottery in Hampstead Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019. Feltzer, 24, who has autism, finds the pottery lessons therapeutic, but is difficult to get it officially added to her covered treatements.
Chloe Fetzer throws a pot with help from instructor Ken Hankins at Shiloh Pottery in Hampstead Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019. Feltzer, 24, who has autism, finds the pottery lessons therapeutic, but is difficult to get it officially added to her covered treatements. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

Hankins said they use an electric drill to mix glazes and Fetzer has been able to complete the task even with the noise of the drill.

Typically, Fetzer is very verbal but doesn’t do two-way conversations for long, according to her mother, though she doesn’t have that issue as much in pottery class.

Fetzer is able to keep and use everything she makes, or give her creations as gifts to family and friends.

“She just loves that. She’s able to, you know, have her snack or her lunch in something that she’s made,” Laura Fetzer said.

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When someone’s birthday is coming up, she selects a glaze color for a mug that will best suit the birthday person.

“Giving her that freedom and that exploration for her talents," Bargeski said, "that’s been a big part of how it’s helped Chloe.”

Bargeski said she has been blown away by Fetzer’s success.

“It shows her concentration and her determination and her interest. I just love that she’s in this program,” she said. “When someone is doing something that they’re very passionate about, it just makes them feel worthy.”

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