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Mom Has a Dream for the Autistic

When Brita Darany's daughter Vanessa, who has classic autism, turned 21, she was "aged out" from vital programs and support.

"People seem to forget that children with autism do become adults," she said. "When mandated services stop at age 21, what are they supposed to do?"

Eleven years ago, Darany decided to make a change. She quit her full-time interior decorating career to found Friends of Autistic People , a non-profit organization devoted to helping adults with autism fulfill their potential and lead full lives.

"My life has changed, but as a mother you feel you have to do something," she said. "You never stop working."

One of Darany's dreams is to start an organic farm and working village for people with autism. Modeled after other successful farms for autistic adults, like Bittersweet Farms in Ohio, it would be the first such farm in Connecticut.

"Parents are aging and we need to provide a place for their adult children to live and find meaning in their lives," she said of the farm, in which 20 residents and 20-30 day program participants would have the opportunity to work with animals, plants and perhaps create a small business.

Vanessa, who currently lives at a group home, bakes an organic apple pie every week because it gives her consistency. Darany hopes the farm will help others like Vanessa have that kind of stability and source of pride.

"We value every human for what they offer and what they contribute," said Darany.

That dream, however, comes with the hefty price tag of $3 million. Friends of Autistic People has organized charity functions and gala events in the past with celebrity attendees like Judge Judy and Kathy Lee Gifford. So far they have raised $200,000, but there's still a long way to go.

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