Autism Supportive Environment Program Paying Dividends
According to Disability Statistics, nearly 10 percent of the world, or 650 million people, live with some sort of disability or special need. Sadly, many of us still wear a veil of misconception when it comes to accepting and embracing the world’s largest minority group – the disabled.
Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro and some very special organizations and people have come together to enact a county-wide initiative, THINK DIFFERENTLY, that will make our community more inclusive, as well as to help break the walls that separate two uniquely different, but equally important worlds.
County Executive Molinaro explains, “We seek to make Dutchess County better prepared to communicate with, provide for and support those living on the Autism Spectrum and with special needs”.
In conjunction with THINK DIFFERENTLY, local Staatsburg agency Anderson Center for Autism has received a grant from Dutchess County for their Autism Supportive Environment program – a partnership that proves most promising to local residents and business owners. The mission of the program is to assist businesses in understanding, serving, and supporting individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and their families, while increasing opportunities to enjoy visiting local establishments and raising awareness within the region.
Anderson Center for Autism is offering two FREE informational sessions for business owners and staff Wednesday, June 3rd from 7:30am-9:30am and Wednesday, June 10th from 5-7pm at their main campus.The hope is to identify up to twenty-five businesses that will receive four free hours of individualized consultation to assist in designing an environment that is supportive to the needs of individuals with autism and their families through environmental assessments, comprehensive staff training, and recommendations for design in regards to space, organization, visual supports, functionality, safety, and more.
Participating businesses will receive an Autism Supportive Environment Certification of Completion, an Autism Supportive Environment Decal for display in the business window, and listings on Anderson Center’s website, in marketing materials, and in their resource directory.
Anderson Center’s Autism Supportive Environment program is a tried and true venture. Its success began nearly four years ago with long-time community partner, Coppola’s Ristorante in Hyde Park. The Center trained employees at the 53-year veteran restaurant to be able to safely and positively accommodate visiting families who seek a safe-haven of sorts to enjoy time with their children comfortably. Owner John Coppola explains, “I’m not sure who enjoys it more, the parents or the kids that get to come to the restaurant and really to be a part of every day life like everyone else does…a lot of these families cannot enjoy the every day things that we do.”
Director of Anderson Foundation for Autism Eliza Bozenski explains that the gestures of Coppola’s staff, no matter how simple, are very impactful. In an autism supportive environment such as Coppola’s, “as a parent, you don’t have to advocate alone. For local business owners, this is a unique and powerful opportunity to make a sound business decision and an enormously positive impact on their community. I simply cannot say it enough – come to the free information session and begin to Think Differently!”