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13 InnovativeHealthMag.com a culturally-compe-tent way,” emphasiz-es Rich. “People may think we exist just to handle disabil-ity issues, but if the child is hungry, the disability, no matter how significant, is not the first priority. It’s very difficult to talk about Special Education classes when their family has no food. We work with our partners in the commu-nity to help them get on their feet so they are in position life-wise to tackle the disability.” Rich emphasizes that they serve all persons across the age spectrum: “We recently assisted the fam-ily of a newborn, while helping two others with loved ones over 100-years-old.” Most people turn to the FND for the same reasons as Rich & Janis – to escape the isolation, find out where to turn, or speak with others who experience similar situations. “We felt so alone,” Rich recalls wistfully. “Count all the time and money and resources, not to mention the blood, sweat, and tears. You need to know how to make sense of it all for the benefit of your family member. It is over-whelming and very challenging to wrap your head around – that’s why FND stresses the twin pillars of information and support.” FND assists those it serves to make informed decisions, then helps them work with teachers, doctors, and related professionals to turn those concepts into real-ity. It does not provide funds to purchase medical equipment, but is a referral source to the correct organizations that can provide the best options for each particular person. “We may not be the peo-ple that gets you the end product in all situations, but we will not leave you hanging. We make sure that you are effectively connected with organizations that can help, whatever the needs of you and your family. FND brings hope – through training, information, support, and family interaction with others in similar situations,” Rich says. “There is no substitute for the personal experience we bring to your journey.” The Internet of 2015 is chockfull of information – “like night and day,” Rich describes it in terms of what his family could obtain a quarter-century ago, but this brings new problems. “People today are often overwhelmed with too much in-formation, and need help navigat-ing all that material to find what is right for their situation. Look up Autism and you will find thou-sands of treatments, therapists, diets, and recommendations. FND helps you identify these options and strategies that make the most sense for your family.” La Belle knows from personal experience the time constraints of families with a member who has disabilities. “With all the demands and pressures in their lives, they often have time for just one as-sistance telephone call a week, and if it is to the FND, we must be ready with as much knowledge, information, and understanding as possible. We do not ever turn our backs on anyone, or shrug you off by saying ‘not us’ or giving you a handful of contact numbers, then say ‘here you go – maybe you will get lucky.’ Our mission is to improve the quality of life for the entire family, regardless of ability or disability.” Rich reflects on his 25 years of service and counting: “I love help-ing those who felt just like my wife and I all those years ago. When we meet or speak to someone who has no clue where to turn, and feels isolated, anxious, confused, and in pain, it is gratifying to help them find answers and let them know they are not alone. There are others, like us, who know what you are going through, and we made it, and if we can, so can you.” The downside is that, no matter how hard La Belle and his colleagues strive, they will never provide help to everyone: “It is overwhelming, challenging, and quite frustrating,” Rich notes philosophically. “People with disabilities in our state and nation have a tremen-dous amount of untapped poten-tial,” concludes Rich. “They have an extraordinary ability to express themselves, make significant social and financial contributions to society, and pursue their hopes and dreams. When we help some-one attain their peak potential, that is the most gratifying.” To end your isolation and start to find the answers, contact Family Network on Disabilities at 800-825-5736 or fnd@fndusa.org. Family Network on Disabilities – your first call! ‘‘ Remember – this is the early 1990s, the Internet was in its infancy, and the most basic information was difficult to acquire. ‘‘


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