Microsoft Technology Unifi’s the Autism Puzzle - Enables LIFELONG LEARNING

Organization Information:

Organization Name:
Anderson Center for Autism
City & State:
New York
Organization's Mission Statement

ACA provides the highest quality programs for children and adults with autism in New York State. We maintain an ongoing fully integrated support network for their families and guardians. We will always strive to provide an enriched and positive climate filled with educational, cultural and recreational activities designed to foster continuous growth, independence and social interaction. We are a results oriented agency offering the most current state of the art program opportunities

Submission Information

Impact Essay

With a diagnosis of autism still ringing in their ears, the parents and family of a once inquisitive and engaging toddler can only watch as their child slips further and further away ... it is an all-too-familiar and heartbreaking story. According to the Centers for Disease Control, autism affects as many as 1 in every 150 children in the United States. Located in Staatsburg on the Hudson River in upstate New York, Anderson Center for Autism (ACA) is a very unique organization. ACA is the second largest employer in the area employing almost 600 employees to support our 140 Children on a 100 acre campus. We also support over 60 Adults in one of our 3 day habilitation program sites as well as multiple adult community homes situated throughout the community and every school district in the state. ACA offers the highest quality year round day and residential programs to children and adults diagnosed on the autism spectrum. ACA relies on its expert team, evidence-based approach to treatment, compassionate care; integrated technology plan to provide a safe, comfortable and enriching environment that promotes countless opportunities for LIFELONG LEARNINGSM. When Neil Pollack Executive Director and CEO began working with ACA in 2001 there were hardly any computers in use in the organization. Within two short years Neil along with an independent IT Consultant began to grow the computing infrastructure from 3 non networked computers to 35 networked computers based on Microsoft server NT 4.0 and Microsoft Windows XP workstations. Neil soon realized in order to accomplish his goal of bringing ACA into the 21st century from the technological Stone Age he would need a full time IT department to begin to unify the I.T. Puzzle Pieces. I was hired in January 2003 upon my arrival I was informed that I only had 24 hours to meet the deadline to submit our first Erate application to be eligible for that years funding. Fortunately my first attempt was successful; this funding was the critical launching point that provided us the resources necessary to implement a comprehensive and unified technology plan which would be built completely on a Microsoft foundation. Now that we had secured the seed funds to begin to purchase the hardware and software infrastructure components, I needed to find resources to fill the end user and software aspects of the equation. Erate is very specific and only funds the core components to provide the basic elements needed to connect to the internet. In researching various sources I eventually came across Techsoup….. Hallelujah!!! Techsoup and Microsoft have been real life savers and have provided us the much needed resources to complete and unify our technology vision bringing all the pieces together. The support of both Microsoft and Techsoup has had added benefits, as the old saying goes “success breeds success”. I was able to share our story and vision with other corporation, politicians and individuals which spurred them to support our goals. We have had workstations donated from IBM, a local architecture firm, and individuals. We have received 25 laptops via a granted from Senator Saland all of which have Microsoft operating systems and Microsoft office. ACA now has a comprehensive Technology Plan that is built entirely on the Microsoft server and SQL database platforms, workstation operating systems, unified communications and end user applications as the core foundation. This unified designed has allowed us to meet the needs of our severely handicapped population, their supporters, our staff, and the Autism community as a whole. Examples include Classrooms that have a 6:3.5:1 ratio that is 6 students 3.5 assistant teachers and 1 teacher who uses Microsoft on their laptops (donated by Senator Seland) to create lesson plans using Microsoft Office and more effectively communicate with Microsoft Exchange and Live Meeting. Each classroom also has a computer which the students use to complement their learning (donated by IBM and Local Architect). Even more importantly, our teachers along with approximately 75 other staff support the children and adults in various remedial learning capacities such as Clinical, Speech, OT and PT. They use various Microsoft programs like Word, Power Point and Publisher to help our children and adults communicate. Microsoft technology has really broken down barriers that once prevented these individuals from communicating their wants, needs and feelings. 100 percent of those individuals with Autism I have worked with have been instantly drawn to the computer. It is like they intuitively know that this funny looking box is going to somehow make their lives better by giving the means to unlock the barriers preventing them from expressing themselves. ACA recently added Consulting Services to provide outside consultation, support and training to individuals, families, school districts and community agencies affected by ASD or other related developmental disabilities at their home or community setting.With the guiding belief that the best options for success and improved quality of life occurs when supports are provided within their natural environment. Our consultation program is designed to empower all who interact, teach and live with individuals on the Autism spectrum by providing effective education, training and treatment within the framework of ABA utilizing the latest technology to present this critical information Via Microsoft Office based solutions like Visio, Power Point and Media Player. One last example of how technology has really help to raise awareness for our cause is evidenced by the attached link to U-Tube where we have posted a brief National Medical Report presented by Hugh Downs; please take a moment to watch. I will close by thanking both Microsoft and Techsoup for their continued and highly critical support. If we are fortunate enough to win this grant we plan on using it in one of two ways. Our first option would be to provide computers to the 30 plus houses that we maintain specifically for the children and adults to use. Currently we only have resources that allow for only one computer per the house that can only be accessed by staff. A second initiative is to build a well trained work force that has been educated specifically on how to work with individuals with Autism. Our goal is to provide distance learn opportunities to regional colleges in the area via the internet. Basically bringing them remotely into the actually classroom or residential unit. Negations are ongoing and very close to being finalized so this grant would really allow us to demonstrate our commitment to these higher learning institutions.

Submission Category
Transformations to Maximize Impact