This is a post by Kathryn Nordberg, founder and CEO of Erik's Ranch & Retreats. Erik's Retreat will open in Edina, Minnesota this April and is featured as part of our Home of the Month series highlighting successful organizations providing services to adults with autism.
The April grand opening at Erik’s Retreat in Edina, Minnesota, is the beginning of something big. In February, Erik’s Retreat accepted its first member. Five years of planning and working to create a place where adults with autism can live and work has finally come to fruition. Our first member, 20-year-old Sam, said this about living in his new apartment at Erik’s Retreat, “I didn’t think it would be so much fun to live on my own.”
Music to our ears.
It’s no secret that as children with autism reach the age when services are no longer provided, parents struggle with the next steps. Erik’s Ranch & Retreats was conceived to offer those next steps: a place to live independently, with opportunities for careers that are meaningful and rewarding, life coaching, social engagement and more.
Our model is this: an innovative living, working and social model for members, with guest accommodations at both Erik’s Ranch in Paradise Valley, Montana, and Erik’s Retreat in Edina, Minnesota. Not only will both locations become home to young adults with autism, but what sets Erik’s Ranch & Retreats apart is that these unique destinations will be run by the individuals who live there.
Brenda Fischer, Sam’s mother, sums it up this way, “It seems most places have a one-size-fits-all plan for providing support to [members]. With Erik’s Retreat, we are pleased with their willingness to work with Sam and us to develop a life plan tailored to his individual circumstances.” She adds, “Sam moved into his apartment with a trial-period attitude, but within a week he acknowledged that he enjoys living in his own place.”
One of the careers we offer at Erik’s Retreat in Minnesota is becoming a tour guide for Erik’s Minnesota Adventures. We work with individuals to create tours based on their interests that are unique, educational and enjoyable. For instance, Maddy has been a tour guide for Erik’s Minnesota Adventures since 2012. As a guide, she has led behind-the-scenes tours to Canterbury Park horse racing track in Shakopee, Minn., Minnesota Swarm LaCrosse games and the University of Minnesota TCF Stadium for the Gophers football team. Each tour was created around her passion for horses and sports. “I’m a people person and being a tour guide is the most amazing job,” she says. “It lets me [work with] what I’m passionate about: sports and horses.” Maddy is scheduled to move into Erik’s Retreat this spring. She’s excited because “I love trying new things, and Erik’s Ranch & Retreats has helped me do that.”
As Erik’s Ranch in Montana is established, members will have similar opportunities there, as well.
These two locations are just the beginning of changing the future for adults with autism. The model is one that can be replicated anywhere, and ultimately, will become self-sustaining, while providing exceptional living, working and recreational opportunities to adults with autism. Living a life with possibility should be within everyone’s reach.