The post below is by Mari-Anne Kehler. Mari-Anne and her husband, Eddie, have a son, Liam, on the Autism spectrum. Their family has been impacted by the challenges of raising a special needs child into adulthood. Mari-Anne is active in the community in the areas of autism awareness and fundraising and in mentoring families impacted by autism. She is also the Director of the upcoming FRED Conference.
"Nothing can be done without hope and confidence."
- Helen Keller
“Mom, what does ‘multi-task’ mean?” Liam asked me. I wasn’t surprised he had multi-tasking on the brain. Liam is 18, loves high school, works at a restaurant, volunteers in the community, has a full set of responsibilities at home, participates in track club, and a few fitness and social programs. He has a girlfriend, goes to dances, bowls and likes the movies. The life of a busy teenager! Liam also finds time to write about his exciting life in his blog: Days in the Life.
But what makes his rich, full schedule unusual is Liam has a diagnosis of severe autism, limited communication skills and has worked through a fairly significant anxiety disorder. Reaching his level of achievement will continue to require ongoing and lifelong support. So what will the future look like for someone like Liam?
62% of families report no life plan for their adult loved ones with a disability. That means about 3 out of every 5 families don’t know where their loved one will live, work, socialize or be cared for after they are gone. Why haven’t they figured that out? Likely because:
· They are just getting by, day by day
· The topic is overwhelming
· They don’t know what is available
Sound familiar? It was our story too. Liam’s childhood was so fraught with extreme self-injury, trauma and regressions, we never had time to consider the next month ahead, much less his adult future. But with a relationship-based approach to Liam’s program, we were slowly, step-by-step, able to raise a young man who now cares for himself, cares about others and seeks to live a rich, full life.
That is why the FRED Conference began over three years ago: to give help, and provide hope. Today, thanks to organizations like Autism Speaks and FRED, we get to focus on hope for our loved ones’ futures. There are more and more solutions being created.
Golden Heart Ranch launched FRED Conference as a way to bring families and experts together to share information and to create connections under one roof to provide hope, fresh ideas and approaches so our loved ones can enjoy purposeful futures and pursue their passions. And yes, that full life might require they learn to multi-task!
FRED Conference is March 28-29th in Los Angeles. For more information, visit www.FREDconference.org
Mari-Anne Kehler has been active in the areas of disability awareness, fundraising and in mentoring families and professionals for almost two decades. Her particular specialty is creating successful transition strategies to optimize the special needs journey into adulthood. Mari-Anne has held sales, marketing and business development leadership roles at top organizations for almost three decades. She is the Director of FRED Conference, serves on many nonprofit boards and is the co-author of the soon to release e-book “Putting the Profit in Nonprofit”.