Mission, Vision and Values
Our MissionGuiding cognitive and emotional growth through individualized programs for autistic children and their families
Our VisionAt the Northeast Autism Center we strive to develop and expand each child's current skills and abilities, utilizing them to enable the child to learn and to acquire useful life skills. We implement this by creating individual programs directed toward each child's specific needs, and built around his or her current abilities and interests.
All programs begin with making the child comfortable and relaxed by creating an environment that is not stressful and in which he does not feel anxious and afraid. Within this context we cultivate awareness of other people and enjoyment of interacting with them.
Positive: We concentrate on what the child has, not on what he or she lacks. We avoid imposing tasks that are foreign and meaningless to the child and therefore tedious and unpleasant. We work with activities that he or she enjoys doing.
Individual: No two autistic children are the same, so there is no single program that is appropriate for all. While there are certain basic cognitive and social skills that every child needs to develop, it is also important for each child develop his or her own special talents. We are continually searching for unrecognized potentials and ways to develop them.
Developmental: Our approach is based on a developmental understanding of human cognition, that most of the things human beings know or can do are learned and very little is innate. As children grow, they advance step by step both in their behavior and in their understanding of the world. In autism, this process tends to go off course, and important developmental steps are sometimes missed. Generally this is immediately apparent. The child just isn't doing something children of his or her age normally do. Sometimes, however, a child is able to skip a step and go on for a while, and only much later does the developmental gap cause problems. Often all that is missing is a simple skill or insight, yet for want of it the child's actual performance suffers drastically. It is something that the child has the ability to learn, but can't without special guidance and training. We analyze each child's behavior to discover what basic steps might have been missed, and design activities to help develop them.
Social: Social interaction is central to human development. Lack of social and communication skills is the most devastating handicap in autism. For normal children, continual interaction with adults and other children stimulates and guides development. It is because autistic children do not naturally interact with other people as much that their development tends to go off in its own way and sometimes even stagnates. At the Northeast Autism Center, every social and communication skill that a child develops improves both his behavior and his ability to learn. It means better learning later on, less need for special help, and less danger of falling into routines that are comfortable but lead nowhere.
Cognitive: Our goal is not only to train socially acceptable behaviors and useful skills, but to develop the child's thought processes. Many of the problems that autistic children have stem from failure to learn basic thinking skills that normal children acquire by playing and interacting with other people. Encouraging children to participate socially helps reduce this problem and improve future learning, but that alone is not enough. It is still important to continually monitor each child's cognitive development and provide activities through which their thought processes can develop whenever it is found to be deficient.
Integrated: We address the entire child. Every skill and behavior is taught within a broader context. Specific behaviors such as speech and eye-contact cannot be developed in isolation. To be effective, they must be taught as part of the immediate context of communication and social interaction, and ultimately the broader context of cognitive and emotional development.
Family Oriented: We address the concerns not only of the child but of the entire family. Having an autistic child is a challenge both for parents and siblings, and they too need help. Few families are prepared to adjust themselves to an autistic member. Yet for the autistic child to achieve his or her potential it is critical that the functioning of the family not be disrupted. The family plays a crucial role in the development of every child. In autism, where there is less contact with other children, the role is even greater. Positive interaction within the family contributes to both cognitive and emotional development. Negative interaction is irritating and not only interferes with cognitive development but can also produce emotional problems. This is an ongoing project, because, like all children, autistic children change and go through many stages as they grow and develop. Each presents new challenges and requires readjustment. Some parents and siblings have the special sensitivity to know just what the child needs, but for most, extensive training is necessary to understand a person who is so different from any they have ever known before. At the Northeast Autism Center we help parents understand and appreciate their child's unique nature. We train them in educational methods that will help the child grow and develop, and provide support and professional assistance from early childhood to adulthood.