About a Farm
A bucolic setting could be a lifeline for autistic adults.
Twenty-seven years ago, Brita and Tibor Darany got the news
that would change their family's life forever: Their
daughter, Vanessa, then three, was diagnosed with profound
autism. The pretty little girl, an only child, would not
speak or respond to them.
Daranys: Tibor, Brita and daughter Vanessa.
While the family found vital services to help Vanessa learn
to communicate and live up to her potential as a child,
the situation changed dramatically when she reached her
21st birthday and, as an adult, was no longer eligible for
the programs and support that are a lifeline for the thousands
living with autism.
“People don't realize that even children with
autism grow up,” said Brita Darany, who lives in Greenwich.
“They still need the things they had before turning
21 or they will slowly lose their skills. I realized that
by helping her, I could help so many other people.”
To that end, Darany gave up her full-time interior decorating
work and founded Friends of Autistic People (FAP), a parents'
support group dedicated to raising awareness of the need
for services and supported living arrangements for autistic
adults. Now seven years old, FAP offers support meetings
and lectures on critical breakthroughs in research, lobbies
state legislators for change and raises funds for innovative
programming, including its dream of a Fairfield County farm
on which people with autism could live and learn life skills
in a bucolic setting.
The need is real. When Vanessa, who now lives in a Trumbull
group home, was younger, about 1 in 10,000 children were
diagnosed with autism. According to the Centers for Disease
Control, the number has jumped to 1 in 166 children in 2004.
The 1974 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
guarantees all children with disabilities access to a free
and appropriate public education. But that doesn't
apply to grown children with autism: “More and more
children who are diagnosed are getting older,” Darany
says, “and their parents are panicking because there
is nothing out there.”
FAP focuses on changes at the state level because that's
where laws that govern real estate and other issues affecting
people with autism are created. They hope to extend the
IDEA concept to grown children and foster living situations
that specifically target the needs of those with autism,
rather than group them with people who have other developmental
and mental disabilities. Several state legislators and Connecticut
congressmen and women have shown strong interest in her
efforts. Congressman Christopher Shays joined other legislators
in earmarking some of the U.S. defense budget to help military
personnel receive medical benefits for their family members
with autism. Senator Joseph Lieberman, Congresswoman Rosa
DeLauro and Senator William Nickerson were honorary chairs
for FAP's October benefit at Temple Sholom in Greenwich.
Stephanie Seymour Brant, supermodel and wife of Greenwich
Polo Club owner Peter Brant, was the honorary committee
chair for the evening, which featured a concert by world-renowned
pianist André Watts.
All proceeds will benefit FAP initiatives, including plans
to secure land for the proposed farm, which would be based
on successful Somerset Farm in England and Bittersweet Farm
in Ohio. People with autism would attend speech and music
therapy and other proven skill-building programs taught
“People working at the mini-village would really care
to be there,” Darany says. “They would understand
the picture – the body language – of autism.
And for the people who live there life would be more predictable,
more routine, which they tend to like. It will be like real
life, but safer and calmer.”
of Autistic People