In recent years, there has been a rise in Autism across America, and now 1 in 68 children are diagnosed on the Autism spectrum.
In Central Massachusetts alone, 3,000 families are estimated to have a family member diagnosed with Autism.
Due to the rising number of families with children who have been diagnosed with Autism in need, waitlists grow longer and more therapists are needed. HMEA is dedicated to helping these families in Central Massachusetts and parts of Rhode Island.
Through a $56,700 grant from The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts, HMEA has been able to expand the Students for Higher: Rising Up for Autism program in partnership with Assumption College.
Dr. Jan Yost, President & CEO of The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts, remarked “with the increasing number of children presenting with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, we commend HMEA for partnering with Assumption College to develop a creative approach to alleviating the challenges these children and their families face, while also providing college students with exposure to children with Autism and a job as they are studying to be therapists. The ultimate goal is to increase the number of therapists who are skilled in Applied Behavioral Analysis, which is proven to help young children with Autism. Once a successful program is established at Assumption College, it is hoped that HMEA will be able to implement the program in other colleges in Central Massachusetts.”
The Students for Higher program specifically trains students in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy. ABA therapy has proved to be an effective treatment for Autism, especially when used during Early Intervention and is endorsed by the U.S. Surgeon General.
Students are taught ABA training techniques such as personalized brain games and positive reinforcement. Students shadow Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA) at first. Once students have gained adequate training and observation, they take care of specific clients independently and check-in with a supervisor.
The Students for Higher program is making an impact on those with Autism, their families, and Assumption students. Kate Colburn, project leader of Students for Higher, happily reported that “the Students for Higher: Rising Up for Autism program has helped provide Behavior Therapy services to all of the children that HMEA supports in the Worcester area.” It has certainly made the impact it intended on families and the unnerving waitlist.
Students have the opportunity to gain real-life, hands-on experience that is much needed in the job market. They are able to receive ABA training and practice with the supervision of BCBAs, helping them to determine their career paths while helping those in need. “After participating in the Students for Higher program, I feel like I’m more prepared for the real world and I have the experience I need to do what I love” says Abigail, an Assumption College sophomore, “I also like how my daily experiences with my client connects with what I’m learning in my Human Services and Psychology classes.”
Michael Moloney, CEO of HMEA, said “through this program, HMEA has been able to provide more ABA trained therapists to families in need across Worcester County, the MetroWest region, and parts of Rhode Island. Not only are Assumption College students gaining needed real-life work experience, but they’re also helping HMEA achieve its mission of giving children with autism and their families, help, hope, and a future filled with promise.”
HMEA was founded in 1961 on the basic principle that people diagnosed with Autism or other developmental disabilities have dreams for their lives. Our mission is to help them live that dream and our 700+ caring, committed and competent staff are dedicated to achieving that. We treat each person diagnosed with Autism or a developmental disability as an individual, with talents, abilities and challenges. And our care spans his or her lifetime — from the first few months of life through adulthood. HMEA serves over 4,000 people who have Autism and other developmental disabilities throughout 110 communities in Massachusetts. For more information, visit www.hmea.org