Since 2000, the number of children with autism in New Hampshire has increased more than six fold. This means that a growing number of children and youth with autism in our local communities need help.
The Birchtree Center in Newington, NH (winner of Sanford Temperature Control’s $500 charity donation), has grown from a tiny nonprofit school serving just four students with autism to one that serves more than 120 students per year. Supporting 23 public school districts in New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts, The Birchtree Center is unique in that it operates the only special educational day school in New Hampshire that exclusively enrolls students with autism.
Jessica Squier, Director of Development & Community Relations, has seen first-hand the difference in students with autism when they get the support they need. “Students learn to communicate, to read, to shop for groceries, and much more. Students with autism need extra support to make this progress, but they’re able to do so much!” says Squier.
(The Birchtree Center exists to promote independence, engaging relationships,
and productive lives for children and youth with autism at home, at school,
and in the community. Photo courtesy of The Birchtree Center.)
Members of the center do not refer to their students as autistic, but rather as “children and youth with autism.” The distinction may seem minor, but Squier says the choice of descriptors is actually very important because “what we call ourselves and how we refer to our children is of primary importance.” There’s a difference between being challenged with autism and being defined by autism, says Squier.
The talented and dedicated staff at Birchtree truly go above and beyond to meet the needs of students and families. For instance, their autism experts travel over 25,000 miles per year to help students in their schools and in their homes, while the organization also offers admission-free Autism Workshops and Q&As for parents, educators, and service providers. Most of their 63-member staff are college-educated Clinical Instructors who work one-on-one with students.
(At The Birchtree Center’s day school in Newington,
autism experts work one-on-one with students with autism. Photo courtesy of The Birchtree Center.)
The Birchtree center receives tuition and service fees from school districts, agencies, and health insurance providers, but these fees don’t cover the full cost of Birchtree’s vital, one-on-one services. Donations from individuals, businesses, foundations, and organizations help underwrite the therapeutic equipment, teaching technology, classroom supplies, and expert instruction that are critical to fulfilling students’ needs.
(Sanford’s $500 donation will help fund educational field trips this fall for
Birchtree’s students with autism. Photo courtesy of The Birchtree Center)
Do you know someone challenged by autism? Visit www.birchtreecenter.org for information about upcoming admission-free Autism Workshops and Q&As for parents, educators, and service providers.
Please consider attending the center’s Benefit for Learning Auction on Saturday, November 5, at the Regatta Room in Eliot, Maine.