DIR Expert Training Leader, Clinical Psychologist, and co-author of Respecting Autism, Dr. Gil Tippy, returns this week to introduce his latest project, a developmental transition service called Dirty Hands Developmental Alliance in Sonoma County, California which is appropriate developmental support for post high school. Dirty Hands Developmental Alliance offers an ongoing opportunity to foster developmental growth and preparation for increasing independence. Please enjoy the video or audio podcast.

Dirty Hands Developmental Alliance with Dr. Gil Tippy

by Affect Autism

Dr. Gil Tippy was the Clinical Director of the Rebecca School in Manhattan and is a Clinical Consultant to Oakwood Academy in Canada. His new project, Dirty Hands Developmental Alliance, is a farming project which is a reaction to the fact that there aren’t great DIR transition services available to people after their secondary education. It comes from the developmental perspective, which for Dr. Tippy is the DIR model.

The Goal and Mission of Dirty Hands

Whatever developmental model you like, what’s important to Dr. Tippy is to think developmentally, meaning that first a child does this thing, then they do this thing, then they do this thing and these things build on each other. We all drop developmentally under stress, but people make progress. Our students with developmental differences are not on the same time scale as neurotypical students and they may not follow the same path. Having a developmental difference or challenge means that the window stays open, and you can continue to develop.

The mission of the Dirty Hands Developmental Alliance is to create an appropriate developmental space to help members of the ASD community bring their full value to society. On small, family-owned organic farms, in economically challenged communities, while providing nutritious foods in food deserts, with the support of at-risk teens and young adults, Dirty Hands will foster appropriate developmental growth, while supporting each individual as they explore their thoughts, feelings, interests and desires, at their own pace.

Dirty Hands Developmental Alliance Mission Statement

Dr. Tippy says that there is plenty of time to work on developmental challenges. Second, they want to be socially responsible. It is important to society, to the business owners, to the workers, and to the consumers. Organic farmers are a great choice because they are more socially responsible than corporate farms. While there are exceptions, such as Jean Martin Fortier in Quebec, the average organic farmer is a small farm under assault and struggling financially. So the goal at Dirty Hands is to continue education in the context of helping a group that needed help.

How it works

Dirty Hands model takes place on an already established organic farm, renting space where they will provide an educational setting for continued developmental growth, offering DIR/Floortime support, occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech and language services, and mental health support.

Dirty Hands may also offer work on the farm. Everyday they will come together as a group about planning, being able to think abstractly and moving forward developmentally amongst a diverse group with wide neurodiverse profiles in the context of having really great clinical support. 

The focus is not on whether or not the work gets done. In a DIR model they care that the process of how we are working out decisions of what our actions are going to be today is the actual process. Dirty Hands will get a proportion of the farm’s produce.

They may be putting together community-supported agricultural baskets for consumer subscriptions and they will be the group that distributes that to the next group of people. And since many lower income people living in a food desert do not have access to organic produce, Dirty Hands will offer store fronts in these compromised areas.

While it may require some resources from our society up front, in the long run getting someone to where they are fully functioning and independent individuals, living the lives that they want to live, from the pieces that grew within them, is much more cost-effective and much more valuable to the society than not actually supporting them through their whole development and then getting them to a place where they’re still in a position where individuals still need a tremendous amount of support.

Dr. Gil Tippy

Dirty Hands participants will be supporting the farm, getting good developmental transition services, and supporting people in nutritional need in the community. In addition, they will bring in nutritionists to hold cooking classes for consumers supporting a depressed economic zone that the Dirty Hands participants will be involved in. 

Flipping the script on autism

Neurotypical people need this group of neurodiverse people to be in our society. Dirty Hands is designed to flip the script on developmental challenges in general. We are going to come to the aid of society and begin to contribute to some of the problems out there. The Dirty Hands logo, designed by Milkshake Studios in Brooklyn, features the rolling hills of Sonoma County .. that’s the group that’s contributing to the benefit of our community, rather than thinking about the autism community only as a group always asking for support. 

The Process

Dr. Tippy has noticed that very often in transition programs there is an end product. There are many cupcake bakeries, for instance, and the focus is to make the cupcake. This means that the individuals in the transition program are brought through the steps to complete a product. But with Dirty Hands, they don’t want this to be a requirement. In DIR/Floortime, the work is allowing the space–holding space and time for a person–to let the individual realize that they have thoughts, and that those thoughts can be acted on, and that you need time to process this. You cannot do this if a cupcake has to be made.

At Dirty Hands, the farmers will already have the production planned. If they can offer help, that may happen, but it won’t be necessary. Dr. Tippy also wanted to make sure that these services are offered in an environment that avoids environmental toxins like pesticides and herbicides, so organic farms made sense. 


Dirty Hands will depend on some publicly funded streams, but their program is designed to have zero overhead. It’s only the modest rent of the buildings that already exist on the organic farms. The bulk of the cost will be for salaries of the clinical support. Dr. Tippy will ensure that these supports are great, all DIR-trained and sensory-integration-trained occupational therapists, for example. But there will only be about 8 participants at each site. Costs will also depend on where the sites are located as others around the country are showing interest in offering similar programming.

An official diagnosis of Autistm Spectrum Disorder is not required. Do you come with a developmental challenge that stopped you from making the progress that you have wanted to make in your life and will a developmental way of working be of benefit to you? If that is the case, then you are in. Since they are a not-for-profit and there will be charitable support, there will be a sliding scale for tuition costs. It will be a day program to start, with thoughts going forward of offering integrative housing options in the future. 

You can get more information about Dirty Hands Developmental Alliance on their website where you can sign up for updates by email. You can also reach Dr. Gil Tippy at his website and check out his developmental blog here. His materials are all developmental, open source resources if you want to set up an alliance in your area. Just contact Dr. Tippy! They hope that when people see the Dirty Hands logo, they’ll realize this is that group doing good work supporting society.

Thank you to Dr. Gil Tippy for taking the time to introduce Dirty Hands Developmental Alliance to us and we hope that we can help spread the word about this wonderful new model for developmental transition. If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it on Facebook or Twitter and/or enter your constructive comments, ideas, thoughts, or experiences below in the Comments section. 

Until next time… here’s to affecting autism through playful interactions!

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