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New ministry aims to help young adults with autism

Sidney Herald - 5/14/2017

High school graduation is a time for celebration one accomplishment and also looking ahead to reaching new goals.

But members of the new Vision of Hope Autism Ministry of Emmaus House committee (the name given by Betty Rauschendorfer) explain that for families of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, graduation can be a fearful time.

"The school system does a good job serving the younger people," Sister Regina Murray said. "But once they graduate from high school, there's really nothing out there for them to be successful. They end up living with parents because they don't have the skills for independent living and relationships."

Because of that need, the Vision of Hope ministry has been formed by Sister Rita Rauschendorfer and Sister Regina of Emmaus House. The program will serve as a source of networking, support and resources for families of young people who have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum or Asperer's Disorder.

Murray and Rauschendorfer, who have masters' level backgrounds in social work and pastoral counseling, will facilitate a parent support group with the goal of connecting parents in order to help share information from professionals and from other parents.

They note the program isn't being provided to any specific religion. "It's open to the community, open to anybody in need," Sister Rita noted. "We're very sensitive to the needs of the community."

A goal is to raise $200,000 for the program. They say attending Minnesota Life College costs $46,000 annually. The school is for training autistic young adults to learn to live independently and seek employment.

Committees in charge of grant writing and fundraising are already established.

"The first goal is beginning a parents support group in the fall," Sister Regina explained. "The second goal is being able to help financially autistic young adults to educate them so they learn to live independently."

Other Vision of Hope committee members include Mary Beth Carda, Nick Lonski, Angela Miller, Stacie Olson, Kathy Roberts, Mike Weber, Rosemary Weber and Jen Vaira.

Money will also be raised through private donations along with an annual fundraising event.

"We're just getting started, but whoever we talk to seem very enthusiastic about the need to build awareness to support the young people," Sister Rita said.

According to the Montana Autism Center, one in 68 children including one in 42 boys in Montana have some form of autism.

Emmaus House was established in 2008 by Murray and Rauschendorfer. The two former Benedictine sisters lived in monastic life for a combined 56 years.

Anyone wanting more information about Vision of Hope, should contact Rauschendorfer or Murray at 406-774-3401.

 
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