Add To Favorites In PHR

Foundation for the Developmentally Disabled blazing a trail of transition

Marco Island Eagle - 2/17/2017

"The life skills education piece is all about helping people learn to live more independently. Common tasks like going grocery shopping, making meals or paying bills can pose challenges for individuals with developmental disabilities."

Karen GoverN, FDD's executive director

I think we would all agree that everyone needs a voice. People with intellectual and developmental disabilities especially need someone to advocate for them as they struggle to become active members of our community.

The Foundation for the Developmentally Disabled (FDD) has been enhancing the quality of life for these individuals in Collier County since 1982. About 200 are being helped currently, and as many as 1,000 have benefitted from their services over the years.

"We provide them with the lifelong support and resources they need to live life as fully as possible," said Karen Govern, FDD's executive director. "We help people with severe chronic conditions that are due to mental and/or physical impairments. They may have some form of autism, Down syndrome, Fragile X syndrome, cerebral palsy, spina bifida or various other disorders. And they are likely to have problems with major life activities such as language, learning, mobility, self-help and independent living."

FDD's programs and services include a very strong emphasis on life skills education, but more than 1,500 people take part in FDD social events and activities each year. There are non-competitive baseball, basketball and bowling leagues, and karate and yoga classes were added last year. Additionally, photography workshops give people a chance to express themselves creatively.

"The life skills education piece is all about helping people learn to live more independently," Govern said. "Common tasks like going grocery shopping, making meals or paying bills can pose challenges for individuals with developmental disabilities."

Then trying to find meaningful employment comes with its own set of challenges for them, Govern said. "They face a higher unemployment rate than other members of the population, and this whole experience can be very frustrating. In addition to facilitating employment opportunities, we advocate for meaningful work for all people with disabilities in our community while we also focus on finding affordable housing solutions."

A brand new Trailblazer Academy, launched last year, actually takes what FDD does with transition services to the next level. It's community based in that participants become actively engaged with employers, recreational centers and arts programs. The program includes daily vocational training at job locations, instruction in resume writing and employee readiness, health and nutrition classes, and an emphasis on independent living skills.

Brett, who is 22 and has autism, is thriving because of the Trailblazer Academy, according to his mom. "It warms my heart to see Brett come home every day feeling fulfilled. He's gained confidence and is talking more."

Donna, the mother of a 33-year-old with autism says, "FDD has been a lifesaver for my son who is making significant progress."

Lauren Morimanno, a volunteer, says that "FDD has completely touched my heart. These individuals inspire me." Stacy, a volunteer with a son in the program, is "happy to be part of something that has truly given my son the joy only found in self-worth and confidence." And Don tells us that "FDD not only offers opportunities for the special people it serves, but it also gives us volunteers a chance to satisfy a passion for giving and receiving."

Not all of the FDD's 100 volunteers are parents of sons or daughters in the program. Many others are not, and there's always a need for more to become involved.

FDD receives no state or federal funds. Their funding comes from people like us. One of their goals is to expand the Trailblazer Academy and they could really use some help with that.

To learn more, and to see what you can do to help, visit www.fddswfl.org.

Joe Landon is a communications consultant having retired as executive director of communications for the Collier County School District. Please send suggestions for future columns to JoeLandon@Outlook.com.

Making a Difference

Joe Landon

"The life skills education piece is all about helping people learn to live more independently. Common tasks like going grocery shopping, making meals or paying bills can pose challenges for individuals with developmental disabilities."

Karen GoverN, FDD's executive director

 
Processing...


Driving Walking/Biking Public Transit  Get Directions