As the mother of a young adult with disabilities, I am encouraged by how people’s hearts, attitudes and desire for change have evolved over the years. In the 1960s, the best parents could hope for children with special needs was that they would be healthy enough to stay out of the hospital or, worse, an institution, and that you had the wherewithal and financial means to support them.
By the 1990s, when my son, Zach, was born, things had begun to improve. Colleges and universities offered accelerated degree programs in special education, speech, and physical and occupational therapies, which turned out qualified, caring professionals who work successfully with this population from birth to adulthood. But respite programs for families, not to mention fun, safe havens for the kids, were few and far between. And though federally funded afterschool programs were out there, you needed a bulldozer to uncover them.
Fast forward to 2015 when technology, creativity and incredible generosity have come together to enable nonprofit organizations like Life’s WORC Family Center for Autism to share their stories about reaching these kids with music, theater, art and sports and bringing their quality of life to the next level. The Center and others like it offer a wealth of career opportunities for those people who want to do good, and those who want to hire these kids for their inherent talent, personality and abilities. Organizations like these place kids and young adults with special needs front and center where they belong. Let’s keep this trend going!