As the grandmother of two young boys with Fragile X Syndrome (FXS) and autism, I worry about the future and the lack of adult programs for this population. Following a meeting with Dr. Randi Hagerman, Medical Director of the M.I.N.D. Institute, UC Davis, I decided to explore what an ideal adult program might look like. What did families want? What did professionals in the autism and FXS community have to say? What do current programs offer and what’s missing?
The result is BRANCHES, a new program model for adults with FXS and/or autism that combines employment at an on-site café with activities to promote life skills for work, home and community. In response to unmet service needs BRANCHES will offer:
• Training for all staff in the needs of those with FXS and/or Autism
• Life skills for work, home and community participation
• A fitness program designed specifically for this population
• Employment at an on-site café open to the public
• An eight-hour day to allow time for employment and other program activities
To date, BRANCHES program development includes:
• Federal and CA 501 (c) 3 non-profit status
• Business Plan, including a two-year budget
• Marketing/Media materials: corporate branding—name, logo, tagline; website domain and splash page (www.branchessandigo.org) ; brochure
• Professional video describing the program
• Survey of 96 families that have an adult with FXS or FXS/Autism*
Although the program design was created in San Diego, the program itself can start anywhere in CA since it has state non-profit status. You can view a short video describing BRANCHES at: http://youtu.be/XgrvKrmZ6Sw.
Admittedly, there are significant challenges in trying to start this type of new program. But, our adult family members with FXS and/or autism deserve the chance to create successful and fulfilling lives. These individuals need jobs. They need friendship and community involvement. They need activities that promote independent living skills. And they need program staff that understand the particular communication, behavioral and social needs of this population. BRANCHES is designed to meet these needs.
Branches Mission: To offer adults with FXS and/or Autism a place where they can pursue their life goals—a place to enhance skills, find meaningful work, make friends and be a vital part of the community.
To learn more, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*The survey included adults with either FXS or FXS and Autism