AMHERST — As part of an increased presence in Western Massachusetts and New England, Amherst is now home to the latest Autism Care Partners facility following an April 12 ribbon cutting ceremony.
Nikki Snizek, Amherst’s managing board certified behavior analyst said while there are other Applied Behavioral Analysis centers in the state, Western Massachusetts is underrepresented.
“The need in Western Mass. for ABA services is very high,” Snizek said.
Snizek said the center will begin offering ABA services for children ages 2 through 6 or 7 ahead of the need for the kids to enter a first-grade setting.
“It’s structured to look like a preschool and early childhood environment but really emphasizing the ABA throughout the day,” Snizek said.
Snizek said the children can receive up to 35 hours of ABA services in this setting with natural environment and play based teaching, communication and learning. After school services will be available to children from first grade on up.
Speech and occupational therapy as well as social work services are planned for clients and families as the client census increases.
Snizek said there are already close to 20 potential clients on their waiting list as they make connections with care providers throughout the area.
In a statement sent to Reminder Publishing, Amherst Town Manager Paul Bockelman welcomed the addition to the town and the opening of the center at one hundred University Drive.
“We are so pleased that the Autism Partners have chosen the town of Amherst as its newest home. They bring needed services to a community that values innovate, integrated person-centered care,” he said
Among those invited to the ribbon cutting ceremony were Amherst Police Sergeant Gregory Wise and Officer Lindsey Carroll.
Carroll, a member of the department since 2017, is also part of the Crisis Intervention Team, a group of specially trained officers who deal with trauma-based situations.
“I think it’s excellent, some of my very close friends actually work in autism-specific classrooms … so I hear a lot about what they deal with, and that early intervention is integral to getting them [those with autism] prepared for a future that’s more independent,” she said
Carroll said there already is an open line of communication between police and center representatives.
“We’re talking about potentially setting up meetings with families, learning how we can help them if their child is in crisis, what things they might respond best to, with some people touch and things like that can be triggering. Where they may run, so we can set up alerts so if their child does go missing, we would know where to look,” she said.
Elaine Crosby with Autism Care Partners said she expects the community and the center to draw on each other for success.
“It’s wonderful to be in Amherst with the all the colleges in the region, they’ll be looking to hire students not only as interns but as they graduate and alumni from the different colleges in the area,” she said.
Autism Care Partners currently has 22 centers in seven states with an expansion plan of opening 10 more in 2023. More centers will be opening in Massachusetts, including Framingham as well as Avon, Connecticut.
The new facilities are opening in observance of Autism Acceptance Month.