F.O.R.W.A.R.D. was founded by concerned parents and friends of young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder and related disabilities to meet their ongoing residential and community living needs. We were established as a 501(c) 3 non-profit with a mission to provide a small scale model housing community where disabled adults will prosper in a safe, supportive environment. There will be a Barn on the property to be used for community activities. There will also be gardens and walking trails. A much needed model for the future, as so many children enter the adult population.!
Federal rules could nix funds for Dennis development
November 5, 2015
Wicked Local Yarmouth
News From The Register
Story by Caitlin Russell
- The state may not provide funding to a housing development for autistic adults in Dennis, but the groups spearheading the project are determined to make it happen with or without state money. The Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services (DDS) is concerned that the development will serve to segregate its residents...
Listen below: audio recorded interview - FORWARD - The Sunday Journal radio interview - October, 2015
Cape Cod's Fresh Mix Radio - 99.9 the Q
SUNDAY JOURNAL: Laura Reckford radio interview with Kathy Ohman
October 13, 2015
August 29, 2015
Cape Cod Times
By Christine Legere
Dennis selectmen approve housing for adults with autism
Selectmen support 'historic' lease of town land
The town will lease 4.9 acres to a nonprofit group for 99 years for four duplex homes
DENNIS — A nonprofit organization's effort to create affordable housing for adults with autism and related disorders has taken a step forward.
Friends Or Relatives With Autism and Related Disorders (FORWARD), teaming up with Housing Assistance Corp., had submitted a proposal for 4.9 acres of town-owned land on Hokum Rock Road, which the selectmen unanimously approved earlier this week.
The town will lease the property to the group for 99 years.
The project promises to be challenging, but FORWARD President Kathy Ohman said she is excited to see it advancing. “It’s been in the works for a couple years,” she said. “It’s a collaboration with the town, FORWARD, the Housing Assistance Corp. and Cape Abilities, which will provide services.”
The group already has its design team in place, which includes an architect, engineer and attorney.
“The project will be done in two phases,” Ohman said. The estimated cost for the first phase is $1.5 million, since it requires installation of all utility lines, which are currently lacking at the site, along with the construction of two duplex homes.
Those buildings will house a total of eight adults.
The second two duplexes, which will house another eight people, will be part of Phase 2, along with the addition of a common meeting area for get-togethers. “Once the first buildings are up and running, we’ll begin work on Phase 2,” Ohman said.
Each of the duplexes will have a professional staff member, providing round-the-clock support to residents. Operating expenses will be covered by payments provided to the tenants by government social service agencies.
FORWARD has submitted a request for $500,000 in Community Preservation Act funding and is set to meet with the preservation committee next week. If the committee recommends the expenditure, the proposal will be placed before a special town meeting in October.
Ohman said her group has applied for a federal housing assistance grant to cover the remaining $1 million. “We’ll probably have all the money in about a year,” she said.
According to Ohman, 80 percent of adults with autism live at home once they “age out” of special education programs at age 22. There is little social opportunity and no plan for a future when parents can no longer care for them.
Ohman and her husband, John, have two sons diagnosed with the disorder. She said "there is a growing number of people with autism that will need housing and support services.”
During the selectmen’s meeting earlier this week, board member Wayne Bergeron called the approval of the project “a historic moment.”
— Follow Christine Legere on Twitter: @chrislegereCCT.
November, 2014 Sunday Journal Radio Interview with Laura Reckford
FORWARD for Adults with Autism Planned in Dennis
November 27, 2014
DENNIS - With 1 in 68 people diagnosed with Autism, most people know someone on this vast spectrum. That’s why a group of Dennis residents, led by John and Kathy Ohman have formed a nonprofit to construct a group home for adults with autism.
The nonprofit is called FORWARD, an acronym that stands for Friends Or Relatives With Autism And Related Disabilities.
Two of the Ohmans three sons have autism and they see first hand the need for a place for people with autism to live independently. The idea was embraced by town officials who have found a town-owned parcel suitable for the housing, 4.9 acres of town-owned land off Hokum Rock Road.
The town has issued a request for proposals targeted toward the FORWARD project to seek bids for the site.
The Ohmans explain that this idea is to establish a fully supervised, “independent” living situation for young adults who have aged out of Special Needs education and supports.
F.O.R.W.A.R.D. has been established as a 501 (C) (3) non-profit to envision and develop a residential housing project to fit the needs of a unique, well-loved group of individuals, Kathy Ohman said.
The mission of F.O.R.W.A.R.D., she explained, is to provide a small-scale model housing community where people with Autism and related disabilities will prosper in a safe, supportive environment.
The goal is to build four homes with four bedrooms each, to house 16 individuals, with an additional central “Common Room” available to residents, families, friends and community groups.
They envision an environment where people with challenging communication skills feel comfortable in a shared living situation with 24/7 supervision: preparing meals or participating in a group activity in the Common Room, for example.
One in 68 children diagnosed on the Autism translates to approximately 98,000 people on the spectrum in Massachusetts alone.
Cape Cod Times
ALEC (Autism Legal Enforcement Education Coalition) Training
F.O.R.W.A.R.D. worked with the Dennis Police Department to bring ALEC training to the Dennis Police Department. On Thursday, November 20, police from Dennis & surrounding towns, as well as several community members & friends of F.O.R.W.A.R.D. gathered to participate in a training to educate first responders about Autism, given by Roger White from the Quincy Police Department. Officer White is also the father of a young man with Autism. White is a veteran trainer on this subject.
The training provided an array of concrete information about this complex neurological disorder, for an audience with little experience or understanding of Autism. Did you know that drowning is the leading cause of death for people with Autism? People with Autism Spectrum Disorder & Alzheimer's are prone to wandering & seek water sources. Officer White provided icon cards, with pictures & language in English & Spanish, to help police communicate with people with ASD, who often have serious communication difficulties. He reported that approximately 50% of people with Autism are non-verbal.
The training included strategies for identifying & de-escalating situations with people with Autism, with the caveat that each individual on the Autism Spectrum is unique, defying global protocols. There was encouragement to take advantage of opportunities to become familiar with local police departments: Community Days, filling out an endangered person register, or simply making an appointment to visit the police station for a tour to familiarize someone with ASD with their local department.
Voters OK land deal for autistic adult housing
Cape Cod Times - October 29, 2014
by Christine Legere
SOUTH DENNIS — Voters at Tuesday's special town meeting overwhelmingly endorsed a plan to set aside 5 acres off Hokum Rock Road for a small housing community for autistic adults and those with similar conditions. Selectmen were authorized to lease the property for a nominal fee for up to 99 years.
The vote was 213-6 — far exceeding the required two-thirds majority.
Selectmen put the article on the warrant at the request of a nonprofit group called Friends or Relatives With Autism And Related Disabilities (FORWARD), who plan to raise money to construct four houses through grants, loans and fundraisers. Tenants would have their own suites and be helped by professional staff who would be there around the clock.
The housing would carry an affordable housing restriction in perpetuity. Both the selectmen and the finance committee unanimously supported the proposal.
"Tonight's vote represents a statement regarding who we are as people," Selectman Wayne Bergeron told town meeting prior to the vote. He said it was an opportunity to provide assistance to a Cape population truly in need of it.
Kathy Ohman, president of FORWARD, said her group will now begin work on its housing proposal, since state law will require the selectmen to put out a request for proposals. Bergeron said he anticipated there may be more than one submitted.
"We aim to develop a setting where people with challenged communication and social skills can feel comfortable in a shared environment," Ohman said. "On Cape Cod, there are no available beds for new clients in group homes for the developmentally disabled."
Two articles seeking to tap Community Preservation money for a rental assistance program and to bolster the Municipal Affordable Housing general fund were indefinitely postponed. Selectman Sheryl McMahon said they will not be brought back before voters until "the depth and breadth of specific reachable goals have been identified."
Cape Cod Times
October 20. 2014 2:00AM
By CHRISTINE LEGERE
Autism housing explored in Dennis
Local parents with two autistic sons are asking Dennis special town meeting to help create housing for what they say is an underserved populatio
SOUTH DENNIS – Dennis parents Kathy and John Ohman are experts on autism – two of their three sons have been diagnosed with the disorder. Now the couple is part of an organization asking town meeting to help create housing for what they say is an underserved population.
Eighty percent of adults with autism live at home once they “age out” of special education programs at 22, said Kathy Ohman, who is president of Friends Or Relatives With Autism & Related Disorders, or FORWARD. That means there is little opportunity for social involvement and a lack of a clear plan for a future when parents can no longer care for them, she said.
“It's an isolated existence for these autistic kids at home,” Kathy Ohman said. “We're talking about people with very limited speech skills and severe anxiety.”
FORWARD hopes to create housing on 4.9 acres of town-owned land off Hokum Rock Road. An article on the Oct. 28 special town meeting warrant asks voters to make the land available for a small housing community for adults with autism and related disorders.
FORWARD would lease the land from the town for a “nominal” amount and cover the cost of housing construction with grants, loans and proceeds from fundraisers, according to the article. State law requires the town to put the land out for requests for proposals, but the request will be tailored to the project proposed by FORWARD.
The current plan calls for building four homes, each containing four suites. The community would accommodate 16 tenants in all. A professional staffer would live in each home, providing around-the-clock support to the residents. There would also be a common meeting area for get-togethers and events.
Operating expenses would be covered by payments provided to the tenants by government social service agencies.
In an open letter to the community, Kathy Ohman said FORWARD envisions “an environment where people with challenging communication and social skills feel comfortable in a shared living situation with 24/7 supervision.”
Autism is formally called Autism Spectrum Disorder because of the wide range of symptoms and levels of impairment, according to the National Institute for Mental Health.
It is characterized by social interaction difficulties, communication challenges and a tendency toward repetitive behavior.
Diagnosis rates are skyrocketing, according to statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2000, 1 out of every 150 children were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. In 2010, the number had jumped to 1 in 68.
Experts attribute some of the increase to better diagnosis, but they are still working to identify causes.
The Ohmans' younger two sons – born after their son Liam who is now 25 – were both diagnosed with autism before the age of 5. Jon, 23, is considered high functioning and he earned an associate degree from UMass Amherst's Stockbridge School of Agriculture and is now earning a bachelor's degree in equine and canine massage from UMass Amherst. It's taken a great deal of hard work but he is very self-motivated, Kathy Ohman said.
He has a driver's license, car and his own dorm room, she said. “He is a good self-advocate, and he's demonstrated he can live independently.”
Their youngest son Patrick, 21, however, is at a different spot on the autism spectrum.
“The hallmark of the disorder is anxiety and severe communication difficulties,” Kathy Ohman said. “Patrick speaks softly and stutters. He has limited social skills and isn't even able to hold a conversation with people.”
He currently attends a day program offered by Cape Abilities, after recently finishing up at Cape Cod Regional Technical High School in Harwich, where he took courses in graphic arts, helped in the copy room, worked on the school's cardboard recycling program and laundered the uniforms of the football team.
Now, he is about to turn 22 – the cut-off age for state-provided special education programs.
“As people age out of public education, some move on to group homes, and we anticipate Patrick will go into a group home,” his mother said. At this point, that group home would be off-Cape, since no facilities exist in the area.
There is at least one other project similar to FORWARD's in the works on the Cape. The proposal calls for a cluster of group homes, planned by Cape Cod Village Inc. The organization is purchasing 4 acres in Orleans with the help of Community Preservation Act funds.
Dennis selectmen agreed to place the Hokum Rock Road article for the land on the upcoming town meeting warrant, and the project has already won the endorsement of both the selectmen and finance committee.
“FORWARD has worked long and tirelessly to develop a modest but impactful proposal that will go a long way towards providing long-term housing to an important and deserving part of the Dennis community,” Town Administrator Richard White wrote in an email. He added the nonprofit organization included a variety of local groups in shaping its proposal.
“Through their work they have provided a great service to the town,” White said. “Hopefully town meeting will reward them by endorsing the selectmen's proposal on the Hokum Road lot.”
Rick Presbrey, CEO of the Housing Assistance Corp. in Hyannis, said his agency will help find funding for the project down the road.
“These parents have a right to worry about their growing children,” Presbrey said. “They approached us and we're enthusiastically willing to help. There is a variety of specialized state resources we'll go after.”
Follow Christine Legere on Twitter: @chrislegereCCT.