Every day, Jeanette Botts, a teacher with Anderson Early Learning Academy, helps her preschoolers discover something new. She’s getting them get a bit more comfortable in the classroom, preparing them for a bigger social setting: kindergarten.
“So early intervention has been proven to show that kids with autism, when they receive early intervention, will have a better opportunity to be in a general education classroom with inclusion,” said Botts. “It helps with verbal skills, it helps with play skills in interactions of social skills.”
The Anderson Center for Autism is based in Dutchess County, with its newest site in the Capital Region helping fill the demand for much-needed services in New York.
What You Need To Know
•The Capital Region location of Anderson Early Learning Academy launched in early 2023
•The preschool program is rooted in the evidence-based practices of Applied Behavior Analysis
•In a 2023 report, the CDC found that 1 in every 36 children has autism, a significant increase from the 2021 estimate of 1 in 44
“The need was huge for preschool seats in every region in New York,” said Daniel Rounds, early childhood education director for Anderson Early Learning Academy. “I found that the need here was astronomical. We have 32 seats and we’ve probably had 75 to 100 students referred.”
The center includes a preschool and clinic that offers one-to-one services for learners of all ages including teens and young adults. Both programs are seeing a surge in families in search of resources.
“There’s just not enough providers around here to keep up with the increasing diagnostic rate,” said Ashlie Symer, coordinator for Anderson Center Clinic. “The diagnostic rate right now for autism is one in 36. So, it’s increasing.”
“This has been a need prior to the pandemic and after the pandemic, the number of programs that closed down was tremendous,” said Rounds. “They just couldn’t afford financially to stay open for 18 months without students coming in.”
The preschool and clinic work hand in hand, providing speech, occupational and physical therapy services. The center also hosts workshops to education others on how they can better engage with those who live with autism.
A 2023 study from Sage Journals found that children who participate in early intervention programs show improved social skills, cognitive function and higher levels of independence.
“We really want our [kids] to succeed without us, to prioritize one to one first parent caregiver training supports second, educational supports next,” said Symer.