21 Aug 2014
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Facility for Autistic Adults Is Planned for Suwanee

A Gwinnett couple will run a day-program operation that will teach life skills to special-needs adults.

Facility for Autistic Adults Is Planned for Suwanee

A facility for young adults with autism soon could be in operation in Suwanee. A Gwinnett couple has applied for rezoning of their newly acquired property on Lawrenceville-Suwanee road so they can operate a day program to instruct special needs adults.

New Directions Georgia is a non-profit that is the work of Michael and Mary O'Connell, and they are not new to helping people with autism. .

The O'Connells recently moved to the Suwanee property to live, and the rezoning would be to allow the dwelling also to be used to impart life skills to as many as 18 adults. Approval could come at the August City Council meeting, and the facility could be operating by October.

"... so many of the young adults with autism who are out of the school system at 22, have nowhere to go during the day."

-- Mary O'Connell

Michael O'Connell explained that the operation is aimed at "taking people who are just out of school to the next level. We will try to focus on young adults just out of high school."

New Directions would seek to instruct the special-needs adults on life skills so that they "could find meaningful work at some point."

Mary O'Connell said Monday, "We started this program because so many of the young adults with autism who are out of the school system at 22, have nowhere to go during the day."

She added that "this is a beautiful piece of land and we will continue to perserve the natural beauty by working within the topgraphy of the property. We hope to include a garden, workshop and leisure area for the adults to participate group activities throughout the day."

Also in the plans for the Suwanee facility are kitchen and gardening skills, even to the extent of having a booth at the Suwanee Farmers Market so the autistic people could "collect dollars and make change," Michael O'Connell said.

Michael O'Connell noted that most such day-program facilities are in commercial buildings, and that the residential atmosphere of the Suwanee location is a huge plus.

"Suwanee has been great," he noted. "We've had nothing but very positive relations with planning and zoning and the people we've met."

For information on New Directions Georgia, email maryjoconnell@me.com.

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