At Venture Community Services, we believe it is our responsibility to develop initiatives that address the complex needs of our community. In our upcoming fiscal year, we will work to develop programs for our continuum of care that can offer support to both adults and children in need of autism services. Although children’s services are a new area for Venture, we are determined to provide support to individuals with disabilities throughout the lifespan.
According to a 2014 demographic study commissioned by Easter Seals, Massachusetts is home to more than 14,000 children with autism – a startling increase from approximately 800 only twelve years prior. The changing diagnostic criteria and the growing population of those diagnosed have created a need for readily available therapeutic and behavioral services across the state. A 2012 survey of the human services industry, commissioned by the Providers Council, identified individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder as a high-need service population requiring prioritization in Massachusetts. This study, conducted by the Public Consulting Group, recognizes that the need for autism services is experiencing a sharp increase, stating that “ASD cases are putting capacity stress on the provision and purchase of early intervention, early childhood, primary and secondary educational services and long-term care services”. In August 2014, Governor DeVal Patrick signed H.R. 4373 into law, which allowed for autism services to be covered under Medicaid and also created a commission to research and identify the needs of individuals with autism. With the increase in number of children diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, along with the increase in insurance coverage of autism services such as Applied Behavior Analysis, the availability of autism services has become a priority.
Applied Behavior Analysis has been shown to promote positive changes in individuals with autism through the principles of learned behavior. ABA uses techniques such as positive reinforcement, modeling and structured scheduling to promote appropriate social behavior, decrease maladaptive behaviors, encourage learning in academic settings, improve communication skills and develop more meaningful interpersonal relationships. ABA is also highly individualized, offering a specifically tailored program for each individual based upon their needs, abilities and interests. Many studies in the field’s extensive history have shown that ABA intervention has resulted in social and educational improvements in individuals with autism, including valuable verbal communication skills.
Venture hopes to eventually utilize the existing facility at its Community Day Services Program in Sturbridge to offer autism services for children, such as Applied Behavior Analysis, which will allow access to a multi-sensory room, gym, multiple treatment rooms, kitchen, adaptive equipment and more. Stay tuned for information about how you can help Venture with this new initiative and support children and adults with autism in central Massachusetts. Don’t forget to visit our Autism board on Pinterest for additional resources!