Cornerstone Autism Center Celebrates 10 Years
When Debbie Ide first moved to Indiana from California, she and her husband were in search of good resources for their son, who is autistic.
“We had come from a land of home programs and that worked great for a number of years, but it’s very isolating,” Ide says. “We wanted more social opportunities. We wanted a community.”
They quickly found, however, that there were few viable options in the area.
Then they met Ken Weadick, a clinical developmental behavior therapy specialist. They hatched a plan to offer a different approach, and in 2010 opened Cornerstone Autism Center in Greenwood.
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“We designed it as a center-based program that relied on clinical expertise,” Ide says.
This model enables parents to be parents, while experienced clinicians care for each child’s needs. As the leaders designed the center, they made sure to keep it homey rather than clinical, which has proven to be a big hit.
“When families come to tour the center, the kids don’t want to leave,” Ide says.
When the center first opened in 2010, it took a bit of time for the staff to spread the word. Once word spread, however, interest exploded and the center continued to grow organically.
So much so, in fact, that through the years the staff has expanded the Greenwood location and opened additional locations – one a half a mile away, one in West Lafayette, and another in Edinburgh. The Greenwood Polk Street location primarily focuses on young children, mostly under 10 years of age, while the Greenwood Madison Avenue location serves older and transitional clients. Cornerstone has served clients as young as 18 months, and as old as 24 years. Across all locations, the organization serves 175 children per day.
Children come to Cornerstone Autism Center Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Board-certified behavior analysts develop and supervise individualized treatment and Action Behavior programs tailored to meet the needs of each student, all of whom meet individually with behavior therapists who use applied behavior analysis and verbal behavior therapy.
“We only serve the kids who have the more significant needs,” says Weadick, noting that kids are authorized for a six-month course of treatment before being reevaluated to determine if more treatment is needed. “The ultimate goal is to get children back in a traditional school environment.”
Ide stresses that the center is a therapy clinic rather than a school.
“We want to get them back into their environment where they can be included and blend right in,” Ide says.
When the children reach certain milestones, the staff members celebrate the accomplishment with a graduation of sorts, complete with cap, gown and diploma. The actual ceremony, however, varies from person to person.
“Some kids do written speeches, thanking their families and therapists,” Weadick says. “Others are not at that ability. We celebrate at whatever level they can.”
This year, the Cornerstone Autism Center staff members celebrate their ten-year anniversary.
“It’s easy to get caught in the weeds with this number of staff and this number of clients,” Ide says. “We are closing in on having helped 500 kids. When you look at all those faces, that’s pretty profound to know we have affected all those lives.”
As the kids transition to school, their trajectory can be improved because of time spent at Cornerstone Autism Center.
“I’ve been working in this field for 25 years, and I’ve never found another service delivery model that can make as big of an individual impact,” Weadick says. “The differences it is making for every kid that has come through here are huge. We’re talking life-changing differences – for them, for their families and for everyone they come into contact with. The breadth and depth of that change is astounding.”
Ide agrees. Time and again, she has seen a frustrated child come in who has no language skills, and many behavior issues as a result.
“Parents are frustrated too because they don’t know what to do,” she says. “To watch that child get those words, to be able to tell their parents for the first time that they love them – that’s huge. That’s special.”
Cornerstone Autism Center is headquartered at 380 Polk Street in Greenwood. For more information, call 317-888-1557 or visit cornerstoneautismcenter.com.