Eden Autism Services’ modern school and clinic sits in the midst of retail, research, office buildings and farmland in suburban New Jersey, a short drive from nearby neighborhoods and schools. It’s central in the community – much as the nonprofit organization’s education, family and therapy services are.
Inside, the building is abuzz. Trained professionals walk with children to therapy rooms – bright, windowed spaces with equipment and space to support speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, and education. Staff members greet students and family members by name as they pass in the hallways.
Autism treatment is a people-intensive effort: Many of the children with autism spectrum disorder ages 3-21 in Eden’s care have teachers, aides, and/or therapists working with them on a one-to-one basis.
That personal attention is based on Eden’s conviction that people with autism benefit from individualized services throughout their life. The organization’s core belief embodies the deepest hopes of parents: that their children with autism can learn to live and work as productive, contributing members of their families and communities.
Autism’s causes remain a mystery to medical science. It’s a complex and lifelong developmental condition that impacts brain development in the areas of social interaction and communication. People with autism have difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, and leisure or play activities. The condition affects one of 88 children born in the United States, according to a 2012 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – and one in 49 in Eden’s home state.
Even as autism spectrum disorder is puzzling scientists, it’s treatable — but that treatment requires focused and sustained intervention by a range of education and therapy specialists. Eden’s operating philosophy is that the earlier services start, the better for child, family and community.
Eden Autism Services, an internationally recognized and nationally accredited not-for-profit organization, is reaching out further to its service community with the assistance of a 2013 grant from the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation’s Northeast division.
The funding supports Eden’s Outreach Services early intervention services, allowing for a number of infants and toddlers to gain weekly therapy and education services in their own homes. This specialized division offers program consultations, diagnostic and evaluative services, training for parents and professionals, support groups, transition services and a full range of supplemental clinic therapies.
In effect, IICF’s grant is allowing Eden’s Outreach Services to make its modern bustling school and clinic “virtually” bigger, expanding services to more people in the local area.
Scholarships are welcomed by families: Only about 25% of New Jersey families have health insurance coverage that makes autism treatment possible, and state-provided coverage can be difficult to access. Most children with autism need as much as 20 hours of therapy each week. The average cost of $80 per hour means this care is a financial hardship for many families.
In response to the IICF grant, a mother wrote:
“Our family knows first-hand how critical early intervention services were to our son’s future accomplishments. Those sessions focused on establishing the skills he needed to learn – eye contact, attention-span, gross motor imitation and motor planning – the developmental basics that we all are blessed with and take for granted. It’s amazing to be able to offer this scholarship support to a family of a baby or toddler with autism that needs to build the same educational foundation.”