Organization helps autistic adults transition without fear
Adriane Faulks-McCann, of Accokeek travels to Montgomery County weekly to see her son Aaron, 28. Aaron has severe autism and lives at Community Services for Autistic Adults and Children Inc. (CSAAC), an assisted living facility. In an effort to one day be closer to her son, Faulks-McCann began Aaron’s Hope, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of adults with autism as they transition from different stages in life.
“For a lot of parents, they’re not home from 2 to 6 p.m. and those individuals are vulnerable during that time and need help and assistance,” Faulks-McCann said. “The things that lack are social opportunities and communication.”
Faulks-McCann’s original dream for the foundation was to build a group home for autistic adults in Charles County. Due to some logistical setbacks, the home is on hold but the organization provides afternoon and summertime care and programs focused on building each person’s own skills.
Three days a week — Monday, Tuesday and Thursday — individuals meet from 2-6 p.m. in a classroom inside Calvary Gospel Church in Waldorf. Teens and adults, ranging in ages from 17 to 55, serve themselves dinner at the church and learn to be more productive and self-reliant through different activities. The curriculum includes strategies to solve everyday problems, lessons on self-advocacy, health and safety, effective communication and appropriate coping strategies to manage behavior.
Though the group currently consists of five individuals, Faulks-McCann said she wants to expand to eight and then add more from there as the group progresses.
“Eventually they will transition and their life with a caregiver may end at some point,” Faulks-McCann said.
“You always worry about who will take care of them when you’re gone,” Janice Keys, secretary of the organization, said of her brother, Joseph Holley. Keys is the primary caretaker for both Holley, who lives with her, and her aging mother. Keys said she brings her brother to Aaron’s Hope because it presents him with an opportunity to interact with others and learn different skills.
One factor the group said they want to prevent is the ability for strangers to take advantage of their loved ones with autism.
“Maybe they don’t understand that not all people are nice and good-hearted,” Faulks-McCann said. “They want to give back to the community and be a part of their community, but it’s about protec- tion and teaching them when to say no to certain people… I’m more concerned with the life skills they can use to protect themselves.”
On April 16, the organization held an orientation and registration event at the church. Parents and guardians attended and conveyed their concerns about creating an educational life-skills platform, Faulks-McCann said.
Capt. Stephen A. Salvas of the Charles County Sheriff’s Office attended the orientation and spoke about how the department is working to become more sensitive to individuals with autism and intellectual disabilities when handling incidences.
Faulks-McCann said the recent event where an autistic man in Fairfax, Va., died while in police custody concerned her and other parents about how police could communicate with non-verbal adults. she praised Charles County Sheriff Troy Berry (D) for his cooperation and efforts to work with the organization.
“I feel good about the support from the Charles County police department,” Faulks-McCann said. “I want people to know we’re a caring organization and we want others to show our children the same level of understanding as they do with others.”
Janice Keys, left, oversees her brother, Joseph Holley, complete a project with the help of Adriane Faulks-McCann and Verdell Small. Faulks-McCann and Small are the founder and president, respectively, of Aaron’s Hope Inc., a nonprofit that supports adults with autism and intellectual disabilities in the afternoons and during the summer.
Adriane Faulks-McCann, CEO and founder of Aaron’s Hope, Inc., helps Joseph Holley write his name. Holley is part of the afternoon program which allows him to interact with his peers and learn skills to help him become more independent.
Adriane Faulks-McCann, CEO and founder, Verdell Small, president, and Janice Keys, secretary of Aaron’s Hope, Inc., run an after school and summer program for adults with autism who are transitioning to different stages of life.