Autism center to help city families find support services

    (WHAM photo)

    Rochester, N.Y. - Support services are now available for Rochester families that have children with autism. This comes following the death of Trevyan Rowe. The 14-year-old student was found dead in the Genesee River after he wandered away from school in March.

    Sarah Milko, the executive director of Autism Up, said having a centralized location called the Golisano Autism Center for families to seek help satisfies a strong need.

    "One in 58 children is diagnosed with autism each day," she said. She added, “It will be educational. It will be sensory. It will be social. It will be recreational. It will give parents the opportunity they need for additional training."

    Deborah Santiago knows the frustration of trying to find resources for her oldest son, who has autism. After moving from the Bronx to Rochester, she said getting access is challenging especially for families living in the city.

    "Sadly, this population of children was not receiving the proper support or the proper attention," she said. “Sometimes you feel lonely, like you don’t have help, that you need guidance.”

    Now, that help is available. Children and adults with autism and special needs can receive medical, social and recreational support, all in one place.

    Melissa Parrish is a family navigator. She helps families know where to get resources and provides emotional support.

    “What’s exciting is being able to have a place where our children can come and interact," she said. "But also have a place where those community centers can access staff who can train them, so that those kids can participate in community programming.”

    It's the first time families living in the City of Rochester can work with someone to get help. The Golisano Autism Center is currently housed at the Boys and Girls Club with the hope of building a 32,000 square foot facility next year on South Avenue.

    Santiago is grateful.

    “He will have the opportunity to learn how to socialize, and he will have health providers and know other families and children who are similar to him," she said. "He will feel in a safe environment and comfortable with no judgement.”

    The new movement has a 18-hour help hotline.

    “The help line is a great resource because it allows individuals who just need to know where can I go," Parrish said. "I have a question about this; to be able to dial a 1-888 number and have someone direct you to resources is invaluable.”

    That number is 1-866-AUTISM 4.

    The Golisano Autism Center is a partnership between CP Rochester, Autism Up, Al Sigil, Community of Agencies and the Golisano Foundation.

    “We already have families moving here for services from out of state," said Milko. "Once we open this center it’s really going to be on a national level. Look at it as a way to say, 'look what this community did for individuals with autism.'”

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