MANATEE -- Mary J. Smith has three children.
One daughter, 19, has Down syndrome.
Her 17-year-old son is autistic.
Her other daughter, 16, has learning disabilities.
“When they were younger, it was like having triplets, but now we’re getting ready to go into adulthood and it’s like I’m starting from scratch,” Smith said. “I’m looking for other mothers who did this, who can help me along the way.”
The executive director of the Family Network on Disabilities of Manatee/Sarasota, Inc., Smith had hoped to meet them at Sunday’s “Girls Just Want To Have Fun,” an FND fundraiser at the Polo Grill in Lakewood Ranch.
Due to families being busy with proms and graduations, the event has been postponed from Sunday until Nov. 6.
Proceeds will still go toward the second Mom’s Away Project, which was postponed until spring 2012.
“This gives us a chance to reach out to more families of children with disabilities,” Smith said.
There are more than 6,000 such families in Manatee and Sarasota counties, she said.
Studies have shown mothers of children with disabilities endure more stress than mothers of typical children. In addition, as primary caregiver at home, they frequently neglect to care for themselves and plan for their futures.
Which is why FND partnered with Pave The Way Consultants for Mom’s Away -- a 24-hour retreat for mothers and primary caregivers of children with disabilities and special needs where they can experience a time to relax, refresh and rejuvenate.
“They get an opportunity to network, make friends, learn they’re not alone in their circumstances, and find out about resources they didn’t know existed for their child,” Smith said. “We’ve seen a lot of lasting friendships come out of this.”
According to its website, FND’s goals are:
n To provide support, training, education, information and advocacy to families and the community through a variety of events, programs and services.
n That parents who have experienced the joys and frustrations of parenting a child with special needs or disabilities can offer other parents understanding, support and valuable information on available resources.
n To provide support to families of individuals with any sensory, physical, learning, emotional, neurological or developmental disability as well as parents of individuals who are medically involved or “at risk.”
Visit the Moms’ Away website at www.momsaway.org or the FND website at www.fndmansota.org.
Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055.