As we enter a new decade, I’ve been thinking back on our work over the last ten years. Each of the programs that we built began with one common drive – to think forward and envision new possibilities for individuals and families living with autism. I look forward to the next decade, and am committed to striving for similar 20/20 vision to sustain our work.
The power of foresight drove our work throughout the past decade.
In the case of the NYC Autism Charter School, we wanted to build a school that employed evidence-based practices. But in 2003, Applied Behavior Analysis was not widely implemented in New York City public schools. We started the first school in Harlem. Then our community needed more teachers trained in ABA, but there weren’t adequate training programs, so we launched HARPP with Hunter College, a program that offers BCBA and MA degrees in ABA. Likewise, knowing first-hand the difficulty of coordinating care for individuals with autism, we built the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain, a diagnostic and clinical center, in partnership with NewYork-Presbyterian and its medical schools Columbia and Weill Cornell. CADB enables families from around the world to visit one location for best-in-class, coordinated care by multiple doctors, clinicians and therapists.
Training our sights on serving adults.
In the last decade, we turned our attention to adults, anticipating their needs at the same time when few programs were serving those needs. We imagined a life empowered by choice and independence, with equal opportunities for meaningful work and community living. That foresight led to the design and launch of our job training and internship program, based on the Project SEARCH model and run by the Arc Westchester in partnership with NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. We aim to spread that program nationally, beyond the states that have already adopted it through our partners at Project SEARCH. (See the Today Show’s feature on this special program below.)
On the corporate side, we saw the importance of educating managers and executives on how best to attract and retain employees with autism and launched employment consulting services, which to date has engaged Fortune 500 corporations, smaller companies, and other organizations. And finally, to round out our vision for adults, we piloted our first shared-living model home in Westchester, NEXT for NEIGHBORS. It is our goal to pilot additional homes throughout the next decade.
We do best when we think forward. I am thrilled to imagine the possibilities that await us in the NEXT decade. Thank you as always for your support and shared vision.