Already an Insider? Log In
Or click here to purchase a paywall bypass link for this article.
Mark and Margaret Fairbanks, founders Milwaukee islandsofbrilliance.org
Ever since Mark and Margaret Fairbanks’ son was diagnosed with autism, they wanted more for him. Not just in terms of their own expectations, but also society’s perception of those on the autism spectrum.
In 2012, the Fairbanks set out to build an innovative learning experience called Islands of Brilliance, a program that touts the strengths of those on the spectrum in a way that builds confidence in their students and that of the community at large.
The Fairbanks could have stopped with their son’s development, but instead chose to funnel their own unique experience into a series of educational programs that serve children and young adults on the autism spectrum.
The long-standing narrative for those on the autism spectrum is that they will be hard-pressed to find work and therefore independence. But in fact, it is estimated that 83% of neurodiverse adults are unemployed.
Through its programming, Islands of Brilliance, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, has redefined what those on the spectrum are capable of by focusing on where their students excel, partnering with other organizations along the way to share the value of a neurodiverse workforce.
“There’s an incredible need to address, and we’ve only begun to scratch the surface,” said Mark Fairbanks, IOB co-founder and executive director. “We’ve come a long way in the past eight years, and I’m most excited about how we’re aligning all of our programming to address students’ needs on an individualized basis. There’s so much opportunity to continue to innovate to create real impact in people’s lives.”