Imagine, one day, discovering that one of your children has been diagnosed with something you don’t know a lot about. Not having all of the answers, you may feel lost or powerless and, quite frankly, frozen in fear of what to do.
Local mother, Rachelle Vartanian, knows that feeling all too well. When her youngest son was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, she immediately sought answers to her questions. Despite her decades of experience in special education, she still felt ill-prepared. That quest for knowledge led her to a second master’s degree, this time in autism.
What Vartanian found was that people that are on the autism spectrum do not have the resources they need in order to succeed into adulthood. As if attaining a second master’s degree was not enough, Vartanian sold her house and quit her job as a teacher to dedicate herself to the organization that would become Living & Learning Enrichment Center.
Located in Northville, Living and Learning provides people on the autism spectrum with resources they need to become the most successful version of themselves. Their flagship program, the Friday and Saturday night hangouts, may not directly relate to job readiness or gaining independence, but it may be the most important program Living and Learning offers. Participants are invited to these weekly hangout sessions at the Enrichment Center to simply socialize with friends in a safe environment while surrounded by people like them.
The Friday and Saturday night hangouts have become so popular that Living and Learning’s director of business development David Franco says they have outgrown their current space.
In addition to social skills, Living & Learning also promotes professional development as a key component of their overall mission. Through on-the-job training, participants learn professional skills, such as interviewing, problem solving and interaction with colleagues and customers. They also work with several local businesses in Northville to provide these young adults with job opportunities that are within a short walk of the Center.
What started as a mother’s desire to know how best to care for her son has blossomed into a community-driven organization whose mission is to simply help an underserved population realize their full potential.
To learn more about Living & Learning and their programs or how you can help, visit livingandlearningcenter.org.
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