Meet Erin O'Loughlin
President & founder of
3 Bluebirds Farm
I’m the founder of 3 Bluebirds Farm and my husband, Colm, and I are parents to three really great children (our “3 bluebirds”). We currently live in Cary, NC, just outside of Raleigh. Marcus, our middle "bluebird," is 16 years old and was diagnosed with severe autism at the age of three. Autism is the most common developmental disability, affecting 1 in 59 births. Parents of children with autism are not offered many viable options for their children once they age out of the school system and conventional developmental disability services for adults may not provide the best assistance.
As Marcus matures, Colm and I are weighing the options of what his needs might be as an adult. One thing is certain, he will most definitely be needing assistance throughout his life. Our family made the extremely difficult decision in July 2015 of placing Marcus in assisted living, due to his severe and dangerous aggression. He has adjusted relatively well, but our bumpy and bittersweet journey has made certain matters even more crystal clear: Our nation as a whole is not doing enough for our adults with special needs. The seed of an idea began to sprout in the back of my mind... a planned residential farm community for adults with autism, along with track-out programs, summer programs, and after school programs and respite care for children and adults with autism.
As luck would have it, I graduated from Wake Forest University (’97) with a double major in Philosophy & Psychology, fully intending on getting my PhD and becoming a college professor.... and that never happened. Instead, I stumbled into marketing and fundraising, and over 20 years later I can now say that I have worked in the field of development and marketing with many various organizations -- from public television, to private schools, to private hospitals. I have coordinated major fundraising initiatives, planned enormous special events, and have designed and implemented operating budgets and million dollar capital campaigns.
So I bring with me work experience, life experience, and loads of strength and passion due to living life with severe autism in the family. Autism adds an element of something indescribable to the family dynamics - it definitely presents challenges, but it has given me an incredible amount of strength, a strong sense of humor, a greater tolerance for all humankind, and an ability to fight for what is right in life.
Erin J. O'Loughlin