Or­ga­ni­za­tion helps autis­tic adults tran­si­tion with­out fear

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By SARA NEW­MAN snew­man@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @in­dy_­com­mu­nity

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.”

STAFF PHOTOS BY SARA NEW­MAN

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.

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