Happiness House ~ Serving Families with Autism for more than 20 years
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC ) released astonishing statistics identifying approximately 1 in 68 children have autism, up from 1 in 88 a year ago. This represents a 30% increase in autism prevalence since 2008 and a 62% increase since 2006. According to the study, 1 in 42 boys (4.5 times more than girls) and 1 in 189 girls are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.
For more than 20 years, Happiness House is recognized as a premier provider serving individuals of all ages exhibiting characteristics of or diagnosed with Autism. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a complex developmental disorder, that emerges before a child reaches age three, and affects the brain’s typical functioning effecting their social and communication skills.
“Our Autism Diagnostic & Treatment Clinic at Happiness House has been extremely busy screening and evaluating children who are questionable; meaning, that they’re not meeting developmental milestones when they should be,” said Mary Walsh Boatfield, CEO of Autism Services of the Finger Lakes at Happiness House. The question everyone wants to know the answer to is “Are we just getting better at catching children at an earlier age?” Which is an extremely difficult question to answer especially, when a family that has a child who went undiagnosed until the age of 4, a few at age 8, tell you that their child just, all of a sudden, lost all of their speech or they didn’t want to play with their friends anymore.
To intervene and support the child and the family at a very early age is critical to the development of that child. Since 1978, Happiness House’s Early Intervention (EI) Program has provided information, support and intervention services for eligible infants, toddlers and families, ages birth to two, in the Finger Lakes area. These services may include speech, occupational and physical therapies; service coordination, special education itinerant teacher services; and preschool to school age transition services. Our interdisciplinary approach includes parents in developing an individualized plan of intervention when there are concerns regarding their child’s growth and development.
Happiness House offers a full day integrated preschool program designed specifically for children with Autism using a behavioral approach to meet the unique needs of children on the Autism Spectrum. Our autism coordinator, teachers, therapists, and paraprofessionals implement specialized techniques such as Discrete Trial Teaching, Social Skill Development, and PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) to maximize and individualize learning opportunities for each child.
The EI program, under the auspices of the Federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Part C, provides vital services for children with disabilities and developmental delays. The EI program has only received one increase in the 23 years since the rates were established and been in crisis for some time, as costs for the service continue to rise. With the 5% cut four years ago, more providers are opting out of continuing to provide these life-changing services to families in their community. Therefore, we urge Governor Andrew Cuomo to include a 3% ($5 million) increase in EI funding to ensure required availability of services for infants and toddlers with developmental disabilities and their families.
To learn more about our Autism Services at Happiness House, please contact Lynn D’Amico, Associate Executive Director of Children’s Programs at (315) 789-6828.
Happiness House- Finger Lakes Cerebral Palsy Association is a private nonprofit educational, residential, health and human service organization that has been serving communities in the Finger Lakes region in Upstate New York since 1969. Today with sites in Geneva, Gorham, Canandaigua, South Seneca and Waterloo, Happiness House offers an array of program and services for children and adults with and without disabilities who reside in Ontario, Seneca, Wayne, and Yates counties. On average Happiness House serves 1,150 individuals and their families each year.
Cheryl L. Coppola