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In The Spotlight

Featuring Jack and Eric Petersen

With an introduction from their mom, Bea Petersen, who gives us her perspective from a parent’s point of view.

I have 4 children. 2 boys and 2 girls. Eric and Jack are close in age and both participate in Self-Direction. Since their inception in Self-Direction, the stress of my inability to be in ten places at once and do ten things at a time has greatly diminished. I am also a widower, so affordability is also part of the equation.

Tell us a little bit about Jack and Eric and your lifestyle.
My boys are now more successful learning how to live an independent life. I could never do any of their activities before this. I work full time and have two other children.

Eric loves his DJ class which allows him to download some of it onto his computer, which in turns allows him to practice at home. Other than if being loud. he’s in charge of what he wants to play…a nice break from receiving direction. Eric loves to swim and gets to do this twice a week. The pool settles him and he absolutely loves it!

Jack is getting more and more comfortable behind the wheel of a car. I could never teach Jack how to drive. You need a professional who can stay calm. Without Self-Direction Jack would not be close to getting his license.

We understand you started a foundation called the EJ Foundation. Why did you start the Foundation and what is your mission, objectives?

Yes, I am the founder of EJ Autism Foundation. We are a 501c3 charity that creates and hosts events that support programs, working with children diagnosed with Autism on Long Island.  We are actively raising money for an Autism Vacation Home Away from Home, on Fire Island.

What advice would you give parents who have a family member or family members with developmental or intellectual disabilities?

My advice for parents, is to see their child for who they are and not for who they are not.  And to try everything!  All of our children are precious gifts, some presents are tougher to open but once you find a way, the skies the limit!

What day to day challenges did you face in the beginning and how does your life differ now since they’ve become Self-Directed?

The worst feeling a parent can have is that they don’t do enough for their child. Before Self-Direction I struggled as a parent because I couldn’t help them manage and reach their goals. With Self-Direction I’m so relieved. I feel that there are others who can help me make sure that my kids get to do the things that they want to do and in a safe manner. It has also given the boys an opportunity to try things they never have before. This is huge. A budget gives them opportunity. Doing the circle…finding out what my kids wanted to do also opened my eyes to the interests they had that I never knew.
I Am Self-Direction

Everyone deserves the right to choose their own path in life, to follow their dreams and desires unique to their own interests and goals. As well, have the opportunity to be independent thinkers and doers. This is one of so many Self-Direction stories that illustrates the strides individuals render when given the chance to pursue their own happiness and make their own path.

Tell us a little bit about yourselves.

Eric – At 16, I love music and movies. I also wants to go college like my brother and sisters and I want to drive. I collect DVDs and like to go to Savers.

Jack – At 18, I’m graduating from High School and will be going to college. I’m not sure what I want to do, though.

What’s a favorite activity you like to do?

Eric – I love my Disc Jockey class. Some of it is downloaded onto my computer so I can practice at home. I go to movies every weekend and I go to swimming and to the YES club. I also take DJ classes and sometimes I work out at the gym. I also like learning about cars. I also go to the store and do shopping for my family.

Jack – I have lots of reptiles and I enjoy listening to politics. I work 2 hours a day at a florist after school. I also help take care of our chickens and I volunteer for our family charity EJ Autism Foundation. I also like to go to certain movies and play PS4.

If you could pick one thing in SD that’s made a difference in your ability to be independent, what would that be?

Eric – being able to pursue music and DJ’g.
Eric loves Self-Direction and it’s been a Godsend for me the parent.

Jack – I’m using it to learn how to drive so I can be more independent.
Jack is more finicky but is doing great with his driving. I am really hoping he is able to get his license.



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