PEP Leads the Way for Young People with Autism

PEP Leads the Way for Young People with Autism

In the mid-1980s, school districts sought help from Positive Education Program in serving students who had limited communication capabilities and intense behavioral challenges. Though the terminology was not as widely used as it is today, many of these students were autistic. Districts knew these young people needed specialized support and they knew that PEP had the expertise to serve them.

PEP Takes Action

They were right. Immediately, we opened a classroom to serve these students. Soon, we opened another. Then, as the need continued to grow, we opened an entire center dedicated to this population. In the span of two decades, we had grown from one classroom to two buildings.

The demand was high, and it became clear that a specialized space to serve these kids was needed. The classrooms needed to accommodate sensory needs. Students required access to many experts in one place, from occupational and physical therapists to psychiatrists and behavior analysts.

So, we sprang into action. We found a new building and launched our first and only capital campaign. Thanks to the generosity of many community partners and anchored by a million dollar gift from the Elisabeth Severance Prentiss Foundation, we were able to open PEP Prentiss Autism Center in 2010.

Safety for Young People with Autism

Today, families are thrilled to have a partner who sees the best in their children, particularly when their kids are so often misunderstood by others. Families who once felt alone know they are now part of a community that understands their struggles and supports them in every way possible.

“For our families, PEP Prentiss means safety,” said Darlene Kelly, principal of PEP Prentiss. “Their kids feel supported and at ease here. It is a huge relief for parents who live in a world that isn’t always so accepting for their kids.”

Annually, PEP Prentiss Autism Center serves over 100 young people. We know our ability to meet the needs of our students and bring peace of mind to their families is possible through philanthropy. Like so many of our stories of innovation at PEP, our ability to develop solutions to the most daunting challenges in our community related to youth, starts with the generosity of others.

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