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Father uses advocacy skills to help children with special needs

Michael Weiner (Photo/submitted)

By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter

Medfield – Michael Weiner of Medfield was just 28 years of age when he owned a textile company in Norwood. Twenty-five years later, he closed his business and the buildings he owned became income property. Weiner, who is married, and is the father of two sons, Ben and Zachary, was in a good place financially.

He recalled asking himself, “What am I going to do the rest of my life? I’m not going to play golf.”

He remembered a lesson, taught by a mentor, to be humble.

“I looked around to see who needed me and who can benefit from my help,” Weiner said. “I looked at my wife and my older son who are quite capable and then I looked at Zachary, my little guy and he’s the one who person who would benefit the most.”

Zachary has an intellectual disability.

Weiner decided to devote the rest of his professional life to helping Zachary and his peers. He saw a need for someone to give sound financial advice to families in similar circumstances. As such, he decided to develop a practice to offer help and support. Weiner is now a partner at the Commonwealth Financial Group in Boston, specializing in financial planning for families of children and adults with special needs.

Weiner also serves as treasurer for the Federation for Children with Special Needs (FCSN). Massachusetts was first in the country to adopt special education laws in large part because of the work of the founders of the FCSN. Created in the 1970s, the organization provides training and education for families, teachers and administrators about special education, helping them to understand what their rights are so they can advocate for their children.

Weiner and his wife Susan have had to advocate for Zachary who is now 28. Zachary lives semi-independently in Brookline, with live-in caregiver and a roommate (who also has a disability). He is working and is benefitting from his father’s advocacy. Weiner wants others to benefit as well.

“That’s why I do what I do,” he said. “I am a boots-on-the-ground, one-family-at-a-time guy, helping them get to where they want to go.”

Weiner has gained a wealth of experience navigating through available programs and resources. He was fortunate because he had the time and ability but he has met many families who have no idea how or where to start. Programs are fragmented, not integrated.

“Parents have had to learn about these programs in order to create a foundation for their sons or daughters,” he explained. “It takes a lot of time, devotion, advocacy and knowledge.”

Over the years he has been able to impart his expertise. It started with a family here and there but evolved into an informal series of meetings, with accurate information, that he holds roughly six times a year. Anyone can come, free of charge. Those interested in attending may contact Weiner to be added to the email list for upcoming events. Contact him at michaelwweiner@financialguide.com.

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