Today we’d like to introduce you to Laura Makings.
Laura, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I am the mom to two young men and have always enjoyed volunteering at their school, in scouts, and sports. My younger son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum disorder in 2003 and during his Early Intervention preschool years I met Lucile Lynch and Mary Backer. Lucile has always been a great connection and has worked to create a community for special needs families.
Beacons co-founders Lucile Lynch, Mary Backer, Janet Schenker, and Karin Barrows started discussing the shortcomings in special ed early in 2018, especially frustrated with lack of vocational training and social opportunities, Beacons Inc. was born. When Lucile, Mary and the others invited me to join Beacons as a Board member in May of 2018, I listened to their vision and I was inspired. Beacons, Inc. was launched, to provide vocational workshops that use assistive technology and hands-on learning experiences to teach actual workforce skills needed for local entry-level jobs. Studies showed that post-secondary, small ratio, structured instruction was one of the best practices in improving employment outcomes so that’s what we’ve done with our vocational workshops.
Social isolation is also a problem for many of the disabled population so we also offer Club Beacons, a social club on site at our office in Carlsbad on the 2nd and 4th Saturday evenings each month. Our participants can have a light meal, hang out with their friends, watch a movie, play games, sing karaoke or participate in other activities. I am committee chair for Club and since we started in November 2018, we’ve consistently had a wait list. With the Covid-19 stay at home order in March, we turned to online options and have continued with our twice monthly meetings on Zoom to allow our members to keep in touch with friends they have made at Club Beacons.
Has it been a smooth road?
One of the biggest obstacles is to have others see the abilities and special gifts these people possess rather than the disabilities. As a parent I have always been the advocate for my son. Advocating for themselves is something our young adults need to learn to do, so we try to give them a voice so that they have more say over their futures, programming and options.
Finding jobs for this population is a huge challenge. Unemployment in San Diego County for individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities has been at around 86% for over a decade despite the Employment First Policy (enacted in 2013 as part of the Lanterman Act), which made the hiring of individuals with developmental disabilities one of this state’s highest priorities. We are looking for businesses to partner with to employ our trainees in with the “Paid Internship Program” there is no cost to the employer and the new employee comes in with a job coach to assist with on the job training.
Creating social opportunities becomes more difficult as they get older, planning a “play date” isn’t something a typical 21-year-old would want his mom to do and neither do these individuals. They have to learn appropriate ways to engage with people they wish to spend time with. This is why Club Beacons has been such a hit, families know their loved one is in a safe place and with peers when they drop off, and for three hours they have a chance to interact with friends.
We’d love to hear more about the organization.
When we opened Beacons our first offering was Club Beacons, from their we’ve expanded to:
- Leadership Council has evolved to more than just choosing the next theme and activities for Club, they are learning about advocacy, leadership skills, how to read an agenda, comment in Google Docs/Slides, and give input for programming at Beacons.
- Pathfinder Vocational Workshops were started in spring of 2019, funded in part by a grant from NFAR (National Foundation for Autism Research) and are now funded by San Diego Regional Center for eligible participants. We use a 10:3 instructional ratio that uses built-in assistive technology and tools, provides touchscreen computers and whiteboards to offer a wide range of expressive input, creates accommodation plans, develops websites and employment profiles and much more. New this fall is our Entrepreneurial Workshop where the trainees will learn how to start their own business.
- Summer Mini Workshops are curriculum supported week long workshops, we offered ASL, Painting, Basic First Aid, Photography, Food Handlers license prep, and Social Media Safety among others last summer.
- Tailored Day Program is offered with a 1:1 ratio to help our trainees with job coaching at a job site, learn new skills using 1:1 tutoring, access community options and since it’s tailored for the individual, it’s their choice.
- Parent workshops and consultations to equip families with information and training.
- Self-Determination planning to help empower the individual with disabilities (and their support teams) with information and tools to create pathways to future goals.
What sets us apart is we are a parent led organization and we understand the community we are here to serve. We bring skills, knowledge and support to the table along with a passion to make a better future for those with intellectual disabilities. I am proud of everything Beacons has achieved in the short time we’ve been open, our board, instructors, trainees, and volunteers have made amazing things happen.
How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
The biggest change will be the roll out of Self Determination for all consumers of Regional Center. As it is now, Regional Center Coordinators choose the services to be funded, vendor choices are sent to the consumer to choose from, the consumer chooses the vendor and RC funds the service. The problem is many of the vendors are running a wait list and often what’s approved is not what the individual needs. With Self Determination, the consumer will have a Person-Centered Plan, budget, a fiscal management service, supports and services to achieve goals and they won’t have only vendored agencies to choose from.
Beacons will be offering Self Determination facilitation to create the plan, budget, and find services. We also want to provide lifetime learning for our consumers, we plan to offer a post-secondary diploma option for adult with disabilities, enrichment workshops, and social events for ages 30+ (we currently serve age 16 – 29) The trend is to allow these individuals to have more say in their future and we at Beacons applaud that!
- post Covid or when we are in person again
- Address: 6150 Yarrow Drive, Suite E, Carlsbad, CA 92011
- Website: www.BeaconsNorthCounty.com
- Phone: 760-448-6230
- Email: BeaconsNorthCounty@gmail.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/beaconsnorthcounty/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BeaconsInc/