Spirit, Interdependence, and Connections at the Fred Conference

Dani Bowman at the Fred Conference with her art

by Debra Hosseini

Yesterday and today I had the honor of attending the FRED Conference which focuses on homes and jobs for special needs adults. What I loved about this conference was the organizers blended the panel discussions with parents, self-advocates, and people who have founded companies and housing projects that are making real differences in people’s lives. One of the highlights of the conference was the participation of one of my spiritual heroines Marianne Williamson, who is running for the U.S. House of Representatives from California’s 33rd District.

Elaine Hall, Mari-Anne Kehler, Marianne Williamson, and Laura Shumaker at the FRED Conference
Elaine Hall, Mari-Anne Kehler, Marianne Williamson, and Laura Shumaker at the FRED Conference

I talked to a number of people who have incredible organizations which I hope to do blogs on in the future. Here are some powerful quotes from some of the dynamic people at this conference. Some quotes are from people whom I talked to individually; most are from others who spoke on panels.

“We believe in empowering all people. We are all interdependent. Our organization is based on three principles – Grace, Opportunity, and Dignity (G.O.D.).” Vivian, Shudde, Brookwood Farms. Brookwood farms is a housing development outside of Houston which employs and houses 200 special needs “citizens.” These citizens bring in a whopping $6 million annually in revenue through sales of 48,000 poinsettia sales, 28,000 ornaments, a five-star cafe, and other enterprises.

“My son is not broken, diseased or needs to be fixed. I don’t hate autism. It’s integral to who he is… We must presume competence.” Jennifer Byde Myers, founder of The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism. Jennifer told me The Thinking Person’s FB page made 40,000 likes this weekend!

“Thank you for treating me like a human being.” Kevin McGuire, Disabilities Consultant, and founder of AbleRoad, a unique website where we can review businesses and organizations for disabled friendliness.

“If we don’t believe in our population, if we don’t believe in them, no one will. Given the opportunity, they will rise to the ocassion.” Peter Bell, President CEO of Eden Autism Services.

“The more centered I became the more he [Liam] became centered.” Mari-Anne Kehler, Director of the FRED Conference and co-author of Putting the Profit in Nonprofit (which is free this weekend for download on Amazon).

“It’s essential we don’t isolate from our community and our community doesn’t isolate from us.” Elaine Hall, Founder of the Miracle Project.

“How heroic our kids are to walk out of the home with sensory overload every single day.” Elaine Hall

“Your children may be purer at heart and have a greater capacity to love…their spirit is not disabled…Most normal people in this society are psychologically or emotionally disabled.” Marianne Williamson

Jonathon Lerman "Mother and Child"
Jonathon Lerman “Mother and Child”

“At the highest level I don’t think serving ourselves or others are two different things.” Marianne Williamson

“The circle of compassion becomes wider, and more energy comes from it, when its wider than your family.” Marianne Williamson

“Surviving this journey in a robust way is to build community.” Kate Movius, First responder trainer and writer

“Years later he told me he overheard the teacher’s saying things about him … day after day.. just because he was nonverbal they assumed he couldn’t understand.” Chantal Sicile Kira, Author, Speaker, and founder of Autismcollege.com.

“Intuition is not woo-woo. It’s a natural skill. It’s our greatest guide, yet many ignore or demean it. It’s our spiritual inner guide.” Nora Baladerian, licensed psychologist and Executive Director of the Disability and Abuse Project.

“We have to let the individual trip or fall. The struggle is like butterflies. If you know anything about butterflies, struggling will open their wings so they can fly.” Jan Cline, Speech and Language Pathologist, Trainer and Coordinator, Bittersweet Farms.

Kevin Hosseini "Butterflies"
Kevin Hosseini “Butterflies”

“We can’t allow our fears to prevent our loved ones to move on in their life.” Mari-Anne Kehler

“In my experience people with disabilities have been my best friends. Parents, do you want your children to have friends or have your child alienated with artificial friendships?” Christine Motokane, Author, Self-Advocate

“I wish people to know I’m smart.” Neal Katz, Nonverbal Self-Advocate

Neal Katz at a book signing at the FRED Conference
Neal Katz at a book signing at the FRED Conference
Mark Woodsmall, Dani Bowman, Tim Harris, Van Hatchell, Ed Lynch, and Mike Naggar at FRED Conference
Mark Woodsmall, Dani Bowman, Tim Harris, Van Hatchell, Ed Lynch, and Mike Naggar at FRED Conference

“As much as this life can be a challenge and a blessing, wine helps.” Mark Woodsmall, founder of Woodsmall Law Group and Spero Vineyards, a unique project which partners a vineyard and the City of Temecula to create jobs for people with developmental disabilities.

“I’m working in my own dream.” Tim Harris, first person in the United States with down syndrome to open his own restaurant, Tim’s Place in Albuquerque. Tim’s Place boasts number of hugs given rather than hamburgers sold. No wonder the following video has over 1 million views!

“We must set the bar higher…until we really challenge what the capabilities are we’ll never know what they are capable of.” Ed Lynch, Mychal’s Learning Place

“We can create so much more if we get together at the same table and collaborate. It’s about sharing our resources and knowledge.” Ed Lynch

“I decided to make it my mission to take this population out of the shadows…As long as our population stays in the shadows nobody knows… We are all connected by special needs in some way.” Mike Naggar, City Councilman, City of Temecula. Because of Mike’s advocacy Temecula has one of the best special needs policies in the country. They started the Exceptional Diner Program – if you have a child with special needs there are designated restaurants who’ve signed on where you can move to the front of the line. This allows families who would normally stay at home because of a child who can’t wait in line to go out to dinner.

“Be vocal and advocate…we represent 1 in 5. Take it forward.” Mari-Anne Kehler

This is a small sampling of the wisdom shared at this amazing conference. For those of you who couldn’t make it, videos of the conference will be soon available on the FRED website. Mark your calendars for March 26 and 27, 2015 for next year’s conference.

Dani Bowman at the Fred Conference with her art
Dani Bowman at the Fred Conference with her art

The Art of Autism had several artist’s art work at this event in the FRED conference’s Farmer’s Market which featured innovative items for sale. At lunch today, Susan Osborne and I enjoyed the SMILE (Support Matt’s Independent Living Enterprise) Biscotti, created from a micro-enterprise in Phoenix.

SMILE Biscotti - A microenterprise in Phoenix
SMILE Biscotti – A microenterprise in Phoenix

Stay tuned for blogs about JaLynn Prince and Madison House, Vivian Shudde and Buttonwood Farms, and Brent Anderson of Unintentional Humor.

6 replies on “Spirit, Interdependence, and Connections at the Fred Conference”
    1. says: Debbie

      It’s wonderful to be at a conference with like-minded people who are not territorial. You have a wonderful spirit and lots of wisdom. Thanks for all the hard work you and your volunteers do Mari-Anne. Many of the organizations represented at your conference were ones I’ve been meaning to blog about. It was such a pleasure to meet some of my heroes at this conference.

  1. says: Neil Mnais

    After 30 years as as eduction administrator working with staff and paretns transtioning students out of the educational system, I continue to beleive in our ability to help our students get into the world of work. This article verifies my new life as a consultant focused on work-based transitions. I am learning about urban farming which I believe like Brookwood Farms and Golden Bridge Growers will be a sustainable work-based setting for many of my former students. Please continue to highlight work sites that start with our folks in mind.

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