STAATSBURGH — Anderson Center for Autism announced that representatives from the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) met with members of its executive team at the nonprofit organization’s Staatsburg campus last week. Anderson had extended an invitation to OPWDD’s new Commissioner, Kerri Neifeld, to visit and learn more about the role that schools like Anderson Center for Autism play in providing a continuum of service to children and adults with autism spectrum disorder.
Neifeld was joined by Jen O’Sullivan, Director of Communications and Public Information; Joan Volpe, Director, Capital District DDRO; and Kelly Welsh, Administrative Specialist. Accompanying Anderson’s executive leadership team were Board of Trustees Chair Philip J. Bronzi, along with Tondra Lynford, an Anderson parent, Chair of Anderson Center International Board of Trustees, and Anderson Center for Autism trustee.
“We are very grateful for OPWDD’s visit and the very fruitful dialogue that took shape. Residential schools like ours are few and far between, so we felt it was important to shed light on a number of things, including our ABA program, our recent preschool opening, our plans for a site in the Capital Region, and our need for adequate funding specifically as it relates to creating residential opportunities for graduates. In addition, we reviewed ways to expedite placement of those students who have aged out of our educational program but remain on our campus. We also addressed the fact that New York State students often end up with out-of-state placements because they are not receiving services here - and what solutions might be feasible to change that situation. These are all critically important topics, especially now as incidence rates have climbed to 1 in 44. We must develop and implement solutions where there are challenges, and find ways to maximize opportunities as well,” said Tina Covington, Ph.D., Chief Operating Officer at Anderson Center for Autism.
Added Tina Chirico, Chief Financial Officer at Anderson Center for Autism, “We are always working to enhance our educational, vocational, and residential programs for people with autism, and this visit with OPWDD Commissioner Neifeld gave us a chance to highlight the need for strong and ongoing financial support in order to do so. We especially need proper funding to help our graduates transition to adult homes and adult lives, which will then open doors for new students waiting for placements. Our guests from OPWDD really leaned into the dialogue and listened for understanding, even requesting that they be included when the time comes to open our new clinic in the Albany area. We were very impressed with their level of engagement, and we are excited about what lies ahead.”
In addition to the dialogue about Anderson’s needs, programs, and vision for the future, the meeting also resulted in an unexpected presentation: a New York State Proclamation for Anderson Center for Autism in recognition of Autism Awareness Month. It is signed by New York State Governor Kathy Hochul.
“It’s very rewarding to be acknowledged for our efforts to carry out our mission of optimizing the quality of life for people with autism. We will continue to do everything possible to build a strong continuum of services for this population, collaborating in an ongoing way with OPWDD and all entities who can help us make the future as promising as possible for those diagnosed and their families,” said Covington.
For more information on Anderson Center for Autism or to schedule a tour, call 845.889.9208 or visit www.AndersonCenterForAutism.org