Autism Center Earns CAC Designation


Kailene Nye, Editor-in-Chief

The Autism Center earned Certified Autism Center designation over winter break.

The certification, which is granted by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards, comes after months of training for the staff in order to meet the board’s requirements for an autism center to receive the CAC designation.

Kristin Hoffman, Director of the Autism Center on Lake St., found out about the certification from Dr. Jennifer Dessoye, Assistant Professor of Occupational Therapy, who helped put her in contact with the board to find out the requirements to become certified. She said this is something they wanted to do in order to better serve their participants and the community.

“For our employment program, the Autism for Lifelong Learning, the training that our job coaches underwent gave them more tools and information for when they are working with participants,” Hoffman said.

She believes the designation will help spread the word about the center’s work and other initiatives. One such initiative is the Integrated Studies certificate program, which provides career development and social participation for adults from ages 18-26 with moderate autism and intellectual disabilities.

The center’s primary job is providing pre-employment and employment services for its participants, to allow more community integration opportunities and promote self-determination.

The Autism Center also provides a variety of other services for participants such as swimming and piano lessons, holiday-themed events such as pumpkin painting and a playroom with sensory-friendly toys and equipment for children.

Adam Myers, senior mass communications and design major and former intern for the center, said he thinks the certification will allow the center to build on its credibility in the community.

The Autism Center holding their annual pumpkin painting & art class. One of the many events held every year (Courtesy of the Autism Center at Misericordia)

“For most people, they won’t trust a service unless they have some sort of certification, especially when it comes to health services,” he said. “Hopefully, the certification can grant more attention to the center itself.”

He also said he believes it will shine a brighter light on the work the staff does, which could possibly lead to more employment opportunities within the center.

“More participants means more work for the employees to do. Maybe Misericordia will realize this and hire new Autism specialists,” Myers said.

Hoffman said she hopes participants will be the primary people who benefit from the certification and the training their staff went through to earn it.

“Our job coaches have always been great however now that they went through this training, they have even more knowledge to support our participants,” she said.

Myers also gives credit to the job coaches who work at the Autism Center and hopes the designation will allow people to see just how hard they work for the participants at the center.

“The employees provide these services while keeping communications with the other autism center in Luzerne and Wyoming county. It’s certainly a lot,” Myers said. “They will never say it is, but I can’t imagine having that heavy of a workload. I really feel like they don’t get as much attention and praise as they deserve.”

He said he hopes to see the Autism Center become more integrated into the Misericordia community through collaboration with other academic programs and departments.

“Programs like occupational therapy or physical therapy would benefit from having courses about Autism and the unique features of working with patients who have autism,” Myers said. “I also think that the OT and PT students would benefit from getting Autism Certified as well, which could be yet another thing that the Autism Center provides for both undergraduate and graduate students.”

Hoffman hopes the center can become an even better resource for people in the Autism community to turn to for help.

“We are hoping to be a resource for the Autism Community, caregivers and professionals,” she said. “We hope to provide guidance, training and tools needed to help these individuals find success.”

She also hopes to spread awareness about the Autism Center and its services beyond the local community and into other surrounding ones as well.

“I think getting our name out to people beyond the local Dallas area would be great, so we can allow others to benefit from what we provide,” Hoffman said.

The Autism Center’s play room, which holds many sensory friendly toys for the community to use. (Courtesy of the Misericordia Autism Center)