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ACA Teachers Tap Into Organizational Skills That Change Student’s Life

Author Skip Pearlman
Date April 1, 2017

STAATSBURG, N.Y. – When Michael came to the Anderson Center for Autism, he was just 8 years old.

Now an Anderson graduate resident at age 22, Michael holds down two jobs, including a full-time position in the kitchen at the Anderson Center, and has also participated in the Special Olympics.

Key to Michael’s progress was tapping into his outstanding organizational skills, and one way was through his ability to remember dates. He has a number of calendars with birthdays of everyone he meets, and when he sees them he always remembers their birthday.

This little ‘game’ is something that draws Michael out, and gets him communicating. He’ll also talk some sports, and has impressed teachers and staff at Anderson with his progress and independence.

“He’s really learned how to self-regulate,” Colleen Contreni, Admissions Administrator at the Anderson Center said. “You can see the quality of life the family wants. He’s a remarkable young man.”

Michael has never missed a day of work and even reported during a recent snow day. He has enjoyed his increased independence and responsibility and continues to thrive.

He learned to do the job through a picture story, which helps counselors communicate the job duties to the workers. And after his kitchen work, Michael goes off to his second job at Ronzoni – to fold pizza boxes.

“His skills have definitely advanced, he has the motivation to work all day,” Contreni said. “Other do this too, but for shorter periods of time.”

“It’s important for the community to consider each individual with autism as just that, an individual.” Kathleen Marshall, Division Director of Program Services, said. “While there are common similarities, there are also tremendous differences in strengths and challenges. As service providers, it is our responsibility to make sure our students experience success in the community and give them the tools to do so as independently as possible. It’s up to the community to think differently – be open and think creatively about ways individuals with autism can participate in activities, access businesses, and services, volunteer and work in the community.”