As a parents of a child with disabilities, this is a question we have asked many, many times. What will the future bring? You wish you had a crystal ball. You hope for great kindness in humanity.

Looking Back at the Supports Involved in Raising a Child with Special Needs

I’ve been thinking back through the last 16 years of all of the wonderful professionals who have supported my child for speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, social groups, behavior therapy, psychological support, psychiatric support, dental services, and the list goes on. One thing I reflect on is the number of people who have maintained a relationship with my son for years after they were his providers. His teaching aide in first grade still comes by to hang out with him. Camp counselors stay in touch. His middle school teacher takes him out on the town once or twice a quarter. His school speech-language pathologist who worked with him in elementary and middle school greets him with enthusiasm when we see her in the community. And the biggest constant in his life outside of his family has been his primary caretaker, who has been in my child’s life since he was 4 years old. We are lucky and thankful beyond words for all of the love and support that our child has had around him. That is the past and now it is time for futures planning.

Futures Planning for Individuals with Disabilities

Looking Forward to the Future Can Be Scary

Looking backwards seems easier than looking forward. When we look forward we see uncertainty. We don’t know what will come. As parents, we think about what will happen when we depart this world and our children are still here. It’s very unsettling. This is why we need to think about futures planning for children with special needs. As our son has approached the age of becoming an adult, we have started to explore the options available to him. I’ll be honest—most of the things we have explored make me feel really sad. Places where people exist but don’t thrive. And that’s not what anyone wants for their child.

Communities for Individuals with Special Needs

Today, we toured a place that made my heart so happy. I have never seen anything so amazing for a community of individuals with disabilities. The Marbridge Foundation in Austin, Texas has been around for 70 years with three core values—happiness, safety, and well-being. My husband, who spent his teenage years in Austin, fondly recalled visiting the brother of a friend of his there in the 80s, and his Boy Scout troop buying Poinsettias to sell for their fall fundraisers. It had the same heart when we visited today but new infrastructure, thanks to a lot of incredible supporters.  

The Marbridge Foundation

Marbridge was founded by Ed and Marge Bridges in 1953, who reportedly did a land swap of 15 acres in a hoity toity area with 80 acres in way south Austin. The campus is now 200 acres and they recently added a 43,000 square foot equestrian center called the Creed Ford III Therapeutic Riding Ranch at Marbridge, which was largely funded by the Creed Ford family. The Marbridge Foundation is loved my many supporters.

Communities for Individuals with Disabilities

Here’s what I saw at Marbridge today that warmed my heart. I saw the staff interact with each other in positive and friendly ways. I saw staff who knew the residents—not just their names but everything about them. I saw residents who happily engaged with us as “new people.” I saw HAPPY RESIDENTS. I saw residents working out in the gym, working in the garden, working with horses, making food, watching shows together, doing artwork, riding bicycles, taking care of horses, playing ball, doing Legos, and going for walks. It was really beautiful.

Communities for Individuals with Disabilities

The overwhelming sense of relief that I feel knowing that there is a possibility of a fabulous future for my son is incredible. I am thankful to the foundations and families that support the development of such places and I am grateful for the amazing professionals who put their hearts and souls into their work. 

Share the Special Places in Your Communities

I still don’t KNOW what the future holds for my son but I am thankful that there are options like Marbridge. Readers, please share the places you’ve had positive experiences. We can work on compiling a country-wide list as a resource for families engaged in futures planning for children with special needs. Thank you all for your contributions in working with individuals with disabilities. Let’s celebrate all of those in the field as we close out Better Speech and Hearing month.

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