Friday, June 24th
STAATSBURG – The Anderson Center for Autism in Staatsburg held its annual graduation commencement Friday as 17 of the school’s 138 students received diplomas. Unlike public and private schools in the region, Anderson students have a different set of criteria to graduate.
“Age is the main determining factor for graduation,” said Anderson’s chief operating officer, Patrick Paul. “These individuals have really worked very hard to maximize whatever opportunities were given to make sure that they are leaving here with the optimal qualities and skills that are necessary to be as successful as possible.”
Following commencement, graduates will move on to a group home that is served by an agency. While some of the graduates will stay at Anderson to participate in an adult program, others will return to their personal communities to reside in a group home.
“Most of these individuals will engage in some sort of day program,” Paul said.
Two graduates, Michael R. of Fishkill and Jacob L. of Newburgh (Anderson typically does not identify students’ last names), arrived at the school 13 years ago within one week of each other. They also share the same birthday and began a close friendship that ran through their graduation.
“They immediately connected to each other,” said Micki, Jacob’s mother. “Mike is more intellectual than Jake and the things that Jake hated to deal with, working together they got through it.
“By doing that they both benefited because they each knows what the other wants. They fit like a puzzle.”
Perhaps Michael R’s mom, Denise, captured the sentiment of comments made by many of the parents and extended family at the ceremony regarding the incredible impact and advancement that the Anderson Center achieved with their sons and daughters.
“When Michael was 3 years old he was admitted to a psychiatric hospital in New York City,” she said. “He was destructive, had no language and was abusive. He entered Anderson when he was 8 years old and from the minute he arrived, he started progressing.
“Where Michael was at 8 years old and where he is now, Anderson gave me my son back. I knew there were skills and I knew there was something inside but no one was able to bring it out.”
Candidates for graduation
Jesse B., Kahron B., Evan D., Jessica C., Brandon D., John E., Aaron G., Heather H., Ryan J., Michael K., Karl K., Jacob L., Francis M., Kayla N., Michael R., Dominick R., Bedros S., Charles S.