United Counseling Service hosted the first, in a series of three, community forums on Autism at the Youth & Family Services Center on Wednesday, September 25th. The event drew over 40 members of the community including parents, family members, service providers and caretakers, who shared their insight on the development of an autism program at UCS.
The forum panel was moderated by Michelle Burnham, UCS Children’s & Family Clinical Services Supervisor, and she was joined by; Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union Special Education Director Wendy Pierce, Department of Family Services Director Beth Sausville, Dan Flannigan from Burr & Burton Academy, Jennifer Di’uto from Early Intervention, and Paula Colbert from UCS Developmental Services.
“This was an incredible opportunity to hear the needs of our community from the people who will benefit the most from the development of an autism program,” said Burnham. “I want to express my sincere gratitude to everyone who attended and shared their experiences or suggestions for how we can develop an effective program that can make a real difference.”
Attendees at the forum shared their experiences and thoughtful suggestions for what would be helpful in the creation of program. Suggestions included the need for home-based services and a resource guide on the services and support available in the community, how to advocate for their children and training on how to advocate for themselves, and need for help with how to help their kids in life, social skills, and making friends.
One theme that was consistent throughout the forum was the need for uniformity in the delivery of services across programs. Multiple families shared importance of childcare, preschool, education, community service providers, and health care providers utilizing the same mechanics and tools to assist their children.
“We learned a lot tonight and will work with our partners in education and health care, among others, in how to best proceed in the development of an autism program at UCS,” said Burnham.