We had the pleasure of sitting down with Jeff Michaels, a REED Next parent and donor, to delve into REED’s profound impact on his son, Ryan, 26 and their family. Read on to learn about his heartfelt journey, why he’s urging all individuals to support the autism community, and how he’s committed to investing in REED through a generous $250,000 pledge to advance REED and to expand REED Next programming.

What impact has REED had on Ryan and your family?

REED has been life-changing for both Ryan and our entire family. From the day program to the residential program, job training, and community outings, Ryan’s life is full of appropriate challenges and activities tailored to his abilities. Knowing that Ryan is not only taken care of, but also thriving is life-changing for me and my entire family. 

What do you think makes REED a unique organization?

Ryan had a placement before REED that didn’t work for him because they didn’t take the time to get to know him. REED, much like Ryan’s educational placement throughout childhood, is trained in applied behavior analysis (ABA) and treats all clients as individuals, getting to know their unique personalities. Their staff is wonderful and well-trained, and Ryan is very comfortable.

What are your hopes and dreams for Ryan?

Like all my children, I want Ryan to be safe, happy, and lead a fulfilling life. That definition of a fulfilling life might be different from my other children, but in the end, it involves various activities, social interaction, productive work, and self-improvement. He is getting all of that through REED.

You recently made a very generous $250,000 five-year pledge to REED. Why do you choose to invest in REED?

We were very fortunate to have found REED and for Ryan to be one of the first clients of REED Residential. He has thrived, even getting paid work this past year. As someone who networks with other parents of children with autism, I realize how desperate many are for similar opportunities for their adult children. I hope that by giving, REED Next can continue to expand and provide solutions for many in need.

Why would you encourage other REED parents to support the organization? 

Autism is a lifelong disability, which means, in all likelihood, our children will outlive us all. We need to ensure that REED has adequate funding, not just for today’s needs, but to thrive beyond our lifetimes. I allocated a portion of my pledge to the Parents Fund, which makes me a member of the Parents Fund Council. I like the idea of the Council because members get to make grants from the Parents Fund in support of REED’s staff and priorities in real-time.

Why do you feel it is critical for those not benefiting from REED’s services to support our organization?

Autism rates have skyrocketed. REED Next’s current client base is the first wave of increased numbers that started about 25 years ago. This population wave is incredibly large, and the number of organizations like REED to service them is insufficient. I implore everyone to help ensure this population is productive members of society and not hidden away in poor placements that do not allow them to contribute.

To learn more about the Parents Fund Council or ways in which you can advance REED’s family of programs, please email us at [email protected].