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Dream Big!

Hometown Hero
A Voice for Autistic Children

Susan Maxwell volunteering
Realtor® offers support to her local autism community.

Some medical experts say that 1 in 166 children in the United States will be diagnosed with autism this year. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have classified autism—a complex brain disorder that inhibits an individual’s ability to communicate, form relationships and interact with people—as the fastest-growing developmental disability in the nation.

“It’s more common than pediatric cancer, childhood diabetes and AIDS combined,” says Susan Maxwell, a sales associate with Premier Realty Group in Stuart, whose own son was diagnosed with autism when he was 18 months old.

As a liaison for parents of children with autism throughout the Jensen Beach community, Maxwell helps parents cope with their child’s diagnosis by sharing information about her now-9-year-old son, Matthew, and the progress he has made. Her son is enrolled in a special program at Jensen Beach Elementary that’s designed to integrate autistic children into regular classrooms. She says that about 10 children initially attended the program but that it’s grown to about 40 students.

“Before I had Matthew, the only thing I knew about autism was [the movie] ‘Rain Man,’” she says. “What we’re trying to do at the Jensen Beach Elementary program is help people understand that children with autism can go on and do wonderful things in our society. The diagnosis isn’t the end of social experiences for their child or family. A lot of these children are going to college and holding down jobs. Our focus [is on] helping them grow to be productive and valuable members of our society.”
When Maxwell’s son was diagnosed, none of his therapies was covered by insurance because autism wasn’t classified as a physical or neurological disorder, she says. “Families bankrupted themselves paying for treatment, or they [just] went without it. All the programs that we were paying for when Matthew was younger are now offered free—speech and occupational therapy— at the elementary school.”

There is no cure or definitive cause of autism, says Maxwell, but amazing strides have been made in recent years to help these children. “Whatever the cause, it’s something that we deal with, and parents like me are just so blessed and fortunate to have so many therapists and teachers working with our children.”
Maxwell also helps raise money for the program through various fund-raisers and charity golf events, and helps with the organization’s monthly parent get-togethers and a support group. “Our social group is with the moms and dads once a month. We also do golf days with the dads. It gives us camaraderie and lets us talk with others who understand. I want to tell everybody that autism is not the end of the world. It’s just a different world.”

She also donates a portion of her commissions to benefit classroom act-ivities as well as the Martin County Autism Program.

Want to Contribute?
To contact Susan Maxwell, call her at (772) 486-4642, send an e-mail to or visit
Let's Rally in Tally!
Great American Realtor Days

Don’t miss this once-a-year opportunity to join FAR’s leadership team and fellow members as they convene in the capital city for two full days devoted to meeting with state lawmakers and regulators on priority issues for the real estate industry.

Look to the March issue of Florida Realtor® magazine for details and a summary of legislative issues that FAR considers noteworthy for the 2007 session.

FAR Annual Scholarship/Essay Contest
$106,000 Awarded to College-Bound Students

Be sure to tell your clients and customers that next month is the deadline for their Florida high school seniors to submit essays (500 words or less) to the Florida Association of Realtors® (FAR) and that an individual student could possibly win up to $10,000 in scholarship money.

Entries postmarked on or before Friday, March 2, 2007, will compete for $106,000 in college scholarships from the FAR Scholarship/Essay Contest for High School Seniors.

Children of licensed real estate practitioners are not eligible for contest entry, nor are children whose parents or guardians are employed by FAR or any local Realtor Board/Association.

the license plateSupport Homeownership for All

Lobbyists for the Florida Association of Realtors® (FAR) worked hard last year to get state legislators to endorse HB 1589, a bill proposing the creation of a specialty license plate to support affordable housing.  Their efforts paid off. As of Jan. 1, the “Support Homeownership for All” license plate was available for pre-ordering through your local tax collector’s office. Realtors are encouraged to purchase the plate to help their fellow Floridians realize the American Dream of homeownership.

The specialty license plate costs $25 (plus regular annual registration fees and a $2 processing fee, which goes to the Florida Dept. of Motor Vehicles). The $25 goes to Homeownership for All, Inc., a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization that will distribute funds to various affordable housing programs.