The Oklahoma Autism Center Foundation recently received a $96,515 grant from the Avedis Foundation for its Early Foundations Shawnee project.

The Oklahoma Autism Center Foundation recently received a $96,515 grant from the Avedis Foundation for its Early Foundations Shawnee project.

Early Foundations is a research-supported model of early intensive intervention for toddlers and preschoolers with autism that is community-based.

In the spring of 2019, four community partners got together to discuss an Early Foundations replication site within the Shawnee Public Schools District.

The stakeholders for establishing an Early Foundations in Shawnee include the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (UMC), Shawnee Public Schools (SPS), and the Oklahoma Autism Center (OAC).

Before the project began, high quality services specifically for young children with autism in the Shawnee area were essentially nonexistent. While public schools are able to provide services for young children there is a shortage of trained school professionals with specific expertise in autism.

“We are honored to support the efforts of the Oklahoma Autism Center with this grant,” Avedis President Dr. Kathy Laster said. “The dedicated partners of the Early Foundations project are not only providing services to children and families, but also serve as a resource for observation, training and hands-on experience for school professionals in Shawnee and surrounding communities.”

An added benefit to having this autism resource is that providers will be better prepared to identify the early signs of autism so that children can receive services as soon as possible, Laster said.

While autism is a lifelong disability, Oklahoma Autism Center Foundation Executive Director Emily Scott said there are evidence-based educational strategies and techniques for addressing core areas of development such as social, communication, behavior and learning challenges.

“Over the past 12 years, the OAC has created an infrastructure for statewide community-based services for children with autism and their families by providing training and professional development activities for educators and health professionals,” she said. “It is an honor to partner with the Avedis Foundation, Shawnee Public Schools, Citizen Potawatomi Nation, St. Paul’s United Methodist Church and the Oklahoma Autism Center on the Early Foundations program in Shawnee.”