Connecting Families with Resources and a Sense of Community

Published: March 5, 2020

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Navigating services in the world of developmental disabilities and autism spectrum disorders can be a formidable challenge for any family. Bridgewell’s Family Support Center (FSC) helps families work through these challenges and obtain social services and programs.

“We are here to support persons served and families when and where they need it most,” says Judith Doherty, Bridgewell’s Family Support Center Program Director and FSC Autism Specialist.  “Our center connects people with services and resources in Greater Lynn and across the North Shore of Boston who come from very diverse cultural, ethnic and linguistic backgrounds.”

A member of the FSC staff meets with each new family or person at home or at the center to learn about their specific needs as well as the family’s strengths and interests. Services include but are not limited to short term and extended service navigation through a Department of Developmental Services (DDS) referral

Developmental disabilities and autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are lifelong and the needs change as children age into adulthood. The FSC is a reliable resource for more than 200 families.

“Supporting people with disabilities through services as they grow is crucial to their future and success in leading productive, self-guided lives,” says Doherty, who is also the mother of two young adults with autism. “At Bridgewell’s FSC we have a hands-on approach to serving families. Our families need a variety of assistance with tasks from small to large including  helping the family of a six-year old with Down syndrome find an Arabic-speaking, pro bono educational advocate to accomplishing the successful installation of interior and exterior stair lifts so a young man could continue to live at home.”

Doherty meets with other agencies on a monthly basis to collaborate on joint programs, conferences and workshops. Recent topics include Autism & Insurance, Basic Rights and the Individualized Education Program (IEP), Guardianship and Alternatives for English and Spanish-speaking families, and ASD and Hoarding Disorders.

In a conference in February titled, “The Invisible End of the Spectrum: Older Autistic Adults,” the FSC is hosting licensed psychologist Eric Endlich, Ph.D.  who will share findings from an international study of 150 adults with autism and the challenges associated with this population. In March, the FSC will cosponsor a workshop called “The Real ID and Travel Training” with five other Adult Specialists from Northeast Massachusetts area agencies.

In spring 2019, the FSC began a very successful series of weekly events such as Family Fitness and Family Dance groups and facilitates monthly meet-ups for teens and adults on the autism spectrum in community settings.

“It’s important that people with autism feel a sense of community, inclusion and acceptance,” says Doherty.

On May 31st, the Bridgewell Family Support Center is partnering with the Torigian Family YMCA in Peabody for an event featuring the Red Sox Experience powered by T-Mobile. This “free to the community” field day will feature a batting cage, a virtual reality experience, giant Jenga, and a 14-foot truck with an inflatable Green Monster. The event, sponsored by DDS North Shore office, is designed to bring together families with and without developmental disabilities in a fun and inclusive setting suitable for all ages and abilities.

Bridgewell’s FSC also takes an active role in advocacy and shaping legislative policy at the state level. The Family Support Center is a member of Advocates for Autism of Massachusetts (AFAM) which is a state-wide autism advocacy organization. Bridgewell CEO Chris Tuttle along with Doherty serve as voting members of the board.

For more information about the Family Support Center, please click here.

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