Including residents in activities is an integral part of care at the Anderson Center For Autism. And that is particularly true when the December holiday period rolls around.
This year’s inclusive holiday activities have ranged from trips to Radio City Music Hall performances in New York City and “The Nutcracker” at the Bardavon in Poughkeepsie to campus and community tree-lighting events to Polar Express Train Rides and baking gingerbread cookies, gifts with Santa and story times.
“We thank all Anderson team members, families, community members, and donors for making this holiday season extra special for the people we serve and truly optimizing the quality of life of individuals with autism, and their families,” said Eliza Bozenski, Chief Development Officer.
A statement at the Anderson Center website reads, “For decades, we’ve invited and encouraged individuals with autism to become more involved in ‘the community,’ which usually meant the neurotypical community. As Anderson helps communities become more Autism Supportive, and with diagnostic rates in the United States at 1 in 44 and rising, Anderson recognizes that today, everyone is part of the ‘autism community.’ We are neighbors, friends, family members, coworkers, professionals, and business owners.”
Here is a look at this year’s events and how staff members include and care for residents.
• Radio City Christmas Show (New York City): Students and staff enjoyed a trip to the city to attend the Radio City Christmas Spectacular Show and lunch. Students with autism may become over-stimulated in nosy environments, so staff members provide students with opportunities to wear special noise cancelling headphones to reduce overwhelming sounds. Students with autism may also struggle with what to expect in a new environment, so staff
members utilize proactive strategies like social stories that outline what to expect in specific situations.
• Campus Tree Lighting: The campus has a large pine tree that the staff and students decorate in December. Staff members work with the students to create ornaments to decorate the tree. They also read stories about all the different holidays celebrated during this time.
• Santa Photos and Delivering of Presents: Santa and his elves go to each residence to deliver gifts to all students on campus. Santa and the elves are trained on how to communicate with each student. Some modes of communication include iPads, sign language and picture icons. • Baking Gingerbread Cookies: Baking is such a fun winter activity! At Anderson, they utilize visual supports, like task analyses, to assist with baking activities. Task analyses can be visual and/or written supports that break down steps to completing an activity.
• ‘Nutcracker’ at the Bardavon: The staff and students attended “The Nutcracker” by New Paltz Ballet Theatre. This event was produced in collaboration with Dutchess County Tourism, ThinkDifferently Dutchess County and The Bardavon, New Paltz Ballet Theatre. The event was specifically designed as a sensory sensitive performance.
• Frosty Fest in Ulster Park and Christmas Lights in Lagrangeville: These are wonderful opportunities for students to enjoy winter decorations from the comfort of a vehicle. Staff and students often stop for treats before or after the events.
• Polar Express Train Rides in Kingston: Staff and students prepare for this event with social stories of what to expect during the train rides. They often watch the Polar Express movie beforehand. Students who may become over-stimulated with noises are also encouraged to use noise-cancelling headphones.
Social stories are presented for events that may be new to resident to determine interests. Staff members utilized stories for Disney and World of Dance as some of the adults are non-verbal and these were events we had not attended previously.
When they plan the NYC trips, they do talk to the adults about the expectations of travel and work on preparing them for waiting and calming techniques