The voice of the family is powerful. And when used to share stories about inspiring change and the possibilities of people with disabilities, families play a critical role. Equipping and empowering families with knowledge, information, and resources to support the whole family, including the person with a disability, is at the heart of the work of the Family and Community Outreach Center at OCALI.
“We believe that families are an important asset in the equation of ensuring people with disabilities have the opportunity to live their best lives for their whole lives,” shares Jen Bavry, program director at the Family and Community Outreach Center. “We strive to build families’ confidence and encourage a vision for the possibilities and opportunities for the whole family.”
While new to this position, Jen has been with OCALI for five years, originally joining the team to support the development and implementation of ASD Strategies in Action. In addition to her professional background, Jen also brings personal experience and a passion for working with families.
“As the mother of a son with autism, I have a deep understanding of the services, resources, and community opportunities that are valuable to families and the person with autism. Because of this, I bring a unique perspective to my role—one I hope will inspire and encourage others.”
Connecting Families and Communities
“We support families by connecting them to information regarding services, training, and resources to ensure they understand what supports and opportunities are available to them,” explains Jen. “When families are equipped with reliable information, they are better able to navigate the journey with their family member.”
Over the years, the Center has been instrumental in keeping families informed, as well as making sure families are included and their voices are represented. This is a “must” for Jen as she takes on her new role. Although not a new focus for the Center, more attention will be directed to community outreach—raising awareness and acceptance to enhance the experience of people with disabilities and their families in their communities. Efforts will focus on building awareness, knowledge, and inclusion to create meaningful experiences and social opportunities. By doing this, the Center will continue to play an important role in informing policies that benefit families and the person with a disability.
Inspiring change is part of OCALI’s mission and each Center contributes to that mission in its own way. Jen shares how the Family and Community Outreach Center is inspiring change.
“I wear two hats—one as the director of the Center seeking to equip and empower families and professionals with knowledge, information, and resources to support the whole family. The other as a mother to a young man with autism. I have been in the shoes of the family just receiving the diagnosis, the one seeking services, the one working with a school for educational support, and the one advocating for access and acceptance. Having the opportunity to share experiences with and hear from others has always given me the strength to make the change I want to see. I can only hope that through my role at OCALI and my experience as a parent, I can provide the same for others—either by sharing my personal story or by sharing the stories of others—inspiring them to make the change they want to see.”
Resources You Can Use
- In celebration of Autism Awareness and Acceptance month, the Family and Community Outreach Center, along with the Autism Center share simple self-care ideas to promote a healthy self and how to refuel. When you are the best version of yourself, you can give your best to others.
- Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Basic Introduction for Families: Guide to provide some basic information, tips, and possible next steps.
- Advice from Parents: Challenges Can Be Overcome: Families share daily challenges and words of wisdom to help overcome the hurdles.
- ASD Strategies in Action for Families: Online video-based learning solution that provides everyone in your family with practical information, real-life examples, and skills they can use to care for and support loved ones with autism. It’s free!
- OCALI’s Lending Library: Connecting people with disabilities and those who support them with accessible materials, resources, and technology.
To learn more about the Family and Community Outreach Center, visit https://www.ocali.org/center/family.