While 2021 marks the 50th anniversary of Life’s WORC, this month we are also celebrating the 6th anniversary of the Life’s WORC Family Center for Autism.

Today Life’s WORC is largely known for its extensive services for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, but its creation 50 years ago by Victoria Schneps Yunis was designed to meet the needs of children, and that is something the agency never lost sight of.

About a decade ago, a mother waiting to pick up her young kids from afternoon respite programs at Life’s WORC shared her wish for more classes for her children with autism, and more spaces that were safe and inviting for these programs to take place. It revealed a gap in services and opportunities for kids with autism and their families. But it was a gap that the trained experts and dedicated supporters at Life’s WORC were ready, willing and able to fill.

A vision emerged and a plan was put into action. Thanks to the tireless fundraising efforts of the late Rick DelMastro, former Board Chair, over a million dollars was secured to create the Life’s WORC Family Center for Autism, which opened its doors on April 15, 2015.

The Family Center quickly became a welcome retreat for children and adults with autism and their families. Offering classes and programs for all ages – from toddlers to adults – and other services and supports ranging from salon services to sibling support groups; from birthday parties to summer camps; and clinical services like Applied Behavior Analysis and other Behavior Intervention Services, the center truly was “A light at the end of the spectrum” for local families.

Over the past six years the center has been able to help hundreds of children and adults with autism to learn critical life skills, make friends, explore their interests, and feel welcome and comfortable. While the COVID-19 pandemic put a temporary pause on programs in 2020, the FCA staff was able to modify and adapt, and they reopened in the fall with full safety protocols in place. In addition, the support staff and therapists are working directly with program participants and their families to help ease the transition back to activities, as we also begin to see the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel.

Perhaps most importantly, Life’s WORC and the Family Center for Autism combine to truly offer whole life support and assistance for people with developmental disabilities and autism. Many of the original FCA program participants have grown into adulthood and moved into our homes. The continuity of care and friendly faces for these families is as important to our staff as it is to them.

Congratulations to the Family Center for Autism on its 6th anniversary! We look forward to a future that includes even more programs and services and lifelong relationships.