Center aims to help Fishers’ autistic residents

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A new program run by the Behavior Analysis Center for Autism is now available for Fishers residents with autism. The program, named After Hours, began in September for residents ages 7 to 22 who need additional help with social and behavioral skills outside the classroom setting. This stretches to clients with pervasive development disorder and autism.

Leah McKenzie, director of the 116th Street BACA location, said, “The community was asking for these services. And we responded.”

The genesis of the After Hours program came two years after BACA opened its doors. The center recognized the need for programs outside, and in addition to, school programs.

McKenzie explained the goal of the After Hours program is to improve skills parents struggle through with autistic children at home and in the community. Unlike BACA during the daytime, the After Hours program focuses specifically on speaking appropriately and sending clients out into the community.

The After Hours program has participated in activities like rock climbing, going to see movies and painting pottery. This offers the clients examples of appropriate social behavior in real-life scenarios.

Cara Jared, consultant at BACA, said, “The goal is to develop better language and social skills. The program helps (clients) either get out of isolation and play more, or helps with (clients) that want to socialize, but are doing so inappropriately.”

Activities out in the community teamed with role-playing and peer-mentor relationships are the basis of the After Hours program.

Outside of the traditional school hours, the After Hours program is able to facilitate new opportunities and role models like peer mentors to clients. There are three mentors at BACA, ages 12 to 17. They take direct instruction from the clients’ therapists. With specific goals in mind, the mentor helps to develop normal social skills through community outings and playing games. BACA is always accepting new peer-mentor volunteers.

The After Hours program is looking to expand the number of clients able to facilitate to all severity levels of autism. BACA is hoping to secure regular groups like Boy and Girl Scouts to visit with more peer mentors.

In addition to the After Hours program, BACA is expanding its growing Zionsville location, and has just opened a new center in Elkhart.

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