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Staatsburg’s Anderson Center For Autism Adopts New Misson

Author Carol Reif
Date July 1, 2016

STAATSBURG, N.Y. — A Staatsburg facility for people with developmental disabilities has a new mission – to give its clients more power over their own lives.

The Anderson Center for Autism said it knows that making “quality of life” issues its top priority will be a challenge.

The children, teens and adults it serves have limited abilities to express feelings and thoughts, said chief operating officer Patrick Paul.

Opened in 1924, the center was cutting edge when it came to treating special needs children..

But today, the number of cases have skyrocketed. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control says about 1 in 68 children are identified as being on the spectrum.

Dr. Sudi Kash, Anderson’s chief clinical officer, was tasked with finding out just what “quality of life” meant to clients.

Paul said she found what she was looking for at the Institute for Community Involvement at University of Salamanca in Spain — the San Martin Scale.

It uses eight domains: self determination, physical well-being, rights (to respect, dignity and privacy), social inclusion, emotional well-being, material well-being, personal development and interpersonal relationships.

Eliza Bozenski, Anderson’s foundation director, said the center has embraced a “new life-enhancing philosophy” that “affects everything, from staff to individual, from individual to individual, the way we act, the way we communicate with the individuals we serve.”

Citing the experience of one client, Paul said the 32-year-old man had expressed a wish to move to a difference residence, “one where he knew there were people he liked.”

Once a place opened up, he was asked to consider if this was what he wanted, and why he wanted it.

Paul said the client said he wanted “to better” himself and be in a place where he could have “home alone time.”

Having greater freedom — and responsibility — helps pave the path towards independent living, Paul said.

The man, now in his new abode, spends part of his “home alone” time voluntarily washing the floors.

When asked what “quality of life” meant to him, he said: “I felt it was time for a change, to increase my independence.”