TRC Offers Popular Autism Program For Youth, Plans Awareness Event

SUCCESS program students create a St. Patrick’s Day Project on Saturday morning with the help of Alissa Madden, SUCCESS program team leader. P-J photo by Katrina Fuller

While programming for youth with autism may be be difficult to find, there are a few programs in the area available.

According to the Center for Disease Control, more than 3.5 million Americans live with an autism spectrum disorder. The prevalence of autism in children in the U.S. increased by 119.4 percent from 2000 to 2010.

Some local programs targeted toward those with autism offer a variety of services that can be helpful.

The Resource Center offers a popular weekend program to bridge the gap, specifically for youth.

The program, titled SUCCESS, focuses on social skills for youth with autism, said Kevin Anderson, assistant director of employment and community-based services. SUCCESS stands for Supporting, Understanding, Changing, Coping and Everyday Social Skills, and the program began in July 2010.

Over the past several years, the program has benefited 30 plus children and their families.

Anderson said the program, which works with the Office For Persons With Developmental Disabilities, is offered in sessions, and runs on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Currently, the program has 10 students that participate in a variety of activities based on a curriculum used by the program.

He said the program is looking to expand in the future.

“It’s a series of lessons and activities to teach social skills,” Anderson said.

Those involved in the program have to sign up in advance and be preapproved for the program by the Office For Persons With Developmental Disabilities. However, if an individual isn’t preapproved by the OPWDD, Anderson said the individuals can still contact him for more information and discuss other options.

“It’s very popular,” he said. “Parents whose children have gone through the program are always looking for more, so I think that speaks to the quality of the program and what we’ve done with it.”

The Step Up For Autism Walk, which began in 2010, helps to fund the program.

On Saturday, the group met for some hands on activities such as making crafts. Alissa Madden, SUCCESS program team leader, said the students focus on a different social skill each week.

“We do four activities, including fine gross motor skills, a sensory activity, art activity and we watch a video for the skill of the week from the evidence-based curriculum,” Madden said. “It’s only an hour-and-a-half, but with in that hour and a half, we’re moving and grooving.”

She said the important part of the program is the teamwork and development that comes out of it. The larger group splits into two smaller groups that work well for individualized attention.

The program serves those who are age 5 to age 21.

The Resource Center, in addition to the SUCCESS program, is partnering with Chautauqua Mall for an Autism Awareness event in April. Anderson said April is Autism Awareness month.

The event is slated for April 15, and will work to disperse information on Autism, early signs and more. CASAC, the Chautauqua Mall Kids Club, Home Depot and the TRC Saturday Respite Program will be onsite with activities and information.

Anderson said the respite program will offer a Train Like An Astronaut obstacle course and Home Depot will offer a project as well.

For more information on the SUCCESS program or the upcoming Autism Awareness event, call Kevin Anderson at 661-1438.

The Parent Network of Western New York offers a variety of opportunities for those in the area, including workshops and other events. A Chautauqua County parent group for parents or children with autism spectrum disorders meets on Thursdays at the Prendergast Library from 6-8 pm, and is free to attend. The group offers an environment for parents and other caregivers to meet, share experiences, ask questions and receive support.

A program entitled Navigating Adult Services is also being offered on March 22 from 6-8 p.m. in the Pine Valley Central School Cafetorium which is free to attend.

Likewise, several workshops are available online which can be accessed from home, such as “Learning Disabilities Celebrating the Whole Child,” “Developmental Disabilities” and others. For more information on upcoming Parent Network of Western New York events or workshops, visit or call 332-4175.