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Shannon O’Brien didn’t let her disability hold her back from
her dream of helping others. With the help of Marianjoy’s
unique Driver Rehabilitation Program, she now drives herself to work, where she helps families as a Family Support Administrator for Families of Spinal Muscular Atrophy (FSMA).

On Shannon O’Brien’s last day of Driver Rehabilitation at Marianjoy, she said: “I’m taking the road test today. If I pass, it will be one step closer to having the state help me with adaptive equipment for my own vehicle, and then I’ll be able to drive independently.” After coming to a stop on a small hydraulic platform where the driver’s seat would be, she was lifted slowly into place.

The state-of-the-art adaptive van contains all of the latest technology that enables a person with a disability to drive, even those with functional limitations, like Shannon, who has Spinal Muscular Atrophy. “I’ve already ordered my own vehicle, customized specifically for me,” O’Brien says. “The Driver Rehabilitation Program at Marianjoy is incredible. No one else offers a program like this.”

While her condition may have affected her mobility, it hasn’t slowed down her determination or ability to succeed. Since January 2010, Shannon has worked for Families of Spinal Muscular Atrophy (FSMA), a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to treatment and cure of the disease. She is a full-time Family Support Administrator for FSMA, where she drives herself to and from work. Prior to her employment at FSMA, she graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a degree in Speech and Hearing Science. She is now studying to become a speech-language pathologist so she can continue to help others.