OAKWOOD VILLAGE, Ohio – A Northeast Ohio mother opened 'Brandon’s Place,' a one-of-a-kind facility for parents and their children with autism.
The center, located on Broadway Avenue, is a non-profit that offers a relaxing and fun atmosphere for kids and young adults living with the developmental disability.
“Brandon’s Place has just been huge because there’s really no social place for Cyrus to go and experience everybody's awkwardness together,” said Christina Shahriari. Her 10-year-old son, Cyrus, has autism.
“All the parents get it because they all live through the same thing. All the kids get it because they're experiencing it,” said Shahriari. “So, it’s really helped us feel comfortable about letting Cyrus try to be social because we want him to be successful and he can be here because everyone gets it.”
Karen Forbes founded 'Brandon’s Place' and named it after her son, Brandon, who is now 19 years old. He was diagnosed with autism when he was eight.
“He’s loving and he cares about people. He may not be able to express it, but there are, really, there’s nobody Brandon doesn’t like,” said Karen, who still gets emotional when talking about her son’s diagnosis and how it changed her life.
“My mother always used to say things happen for a reason and I know now why I gave birth to a child with autism and it’s because I am exactly where I should be.”
'Brandon’s Place' is a non-therapeutic center where they play games, focus on art projects, dance and even have yoga classes. It also offers a refuge for parents to relax.
“In my own little, teeny world, I knew that this was a struggle and I was pretty certain other families had the same struggle and so, I started thinking, really how we could make this happen and Brandon’s Place was born,” said Forbes. “They need a lot of support and when I was raising Brandon, there weren’t any programs like this around and as a result, I just didn’t take him to do much recreational and he really missed out.”
“So far, it’s been a joy to know that I’m just not alone, you know, and this place is very much needed for the community,” said Lisa Baddger. Her 20-year-old daughter, Janetta, has become a regular at 'Brandon’s Place.' “She loves it. I mean she’s excited about coming here - every day she asks if it’s Brandon’s time now and I say no, that’s the weekend,” said Baddger.
Programs at 'Brandon’s Place' are filling up quickly and there are now plans to build a gym. Karen is making plans to further expand but it’s going to take time and additional financial assistance from the community.
It’s a worthy investment for some parents, including Nancy Petro, who is seeing a change in her daughter’s behavior after only a few visits.
“She says she can just be herself and nobody’s making fun of anybody - everybody is having fun and being themselves,” said Petro. “They all just love each other!”
For more information on Brandon’s Place, including their phone number and a list of programs CLICK HERE.
For more on autism awareness click here.