Firefly Autism coming to Lakewood

The autism treatment center will occupy the old North Lakewood School building

Posted 7/29/19

Nicole Taylor was watching “Monsters, Inc.” three months ago with her three-year-old grandson, Bubba. He suffers from Autism, a developmental disorder that can impair the ability to communicate …

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Firefly Autism coming to Lakewood

The autism treatment center will occupy the old North Lakewood School building

Posted

Nicole Taylor was watching “Monsters, Inc.” three months ago with her three-year-old grandson, Bubba. He suffers from Autism, a developmental disorder that can impair the ability to communicate and socialize. The film was showing doors that monsters use to go through to scare children when Bubba stood up and went to touch a door.

“He touched (the door) and said door. He wanted to make sure I understood he gets it,” said Taylor. “At that point I understood it's going to be okay.”

Taylor credits Bubba's progress in dealing with autism to Firefly Autism — an Autism treatment center that will call Lakewood home, hopefully by spring of 2020.

The center has been seeking a new home for the past few years as applications to join it poured in, and its students exceeded its southeast Denver facility. But with the purchase of the former North Lakewood School building in the Morse Park neighborhood, Firefly Executive Director Jesse Ogas hopes the center can help even more people who struggle with autism.

"Right now we have 180 kids on our waiting list. The center we're at only let's us serve a total of 40 kids, think about that," said Ogas. "What this school will afford us to do is to serve at any given time up to 120 children. We're not going to be able to rid the wait list completely, but we're going to be able to make a difference."

The center has been open for 16 years and uses Applied Behavioral Analysis programs, a therapy that works to increase behaviors that are helpful and decrease behavior that is harmful to learning, according to Autism Speaks — an organization working to promote solutions for people who have autism. Applied Behavioral Analysis techniques breaks down behavior into steps and uses positive reinforcement when those steps are accomplished.

The center serves children as young as 18-months-old and adults as old as 21-years-old.

Firefly Autism was recognized in 2017 by the US Department of Education as being a model treatment facility that other organizations can follow. Places in Brazil and Belarus have used the center as an example for their organizations.

Jefferson County Public Schools is Firefly Autism's largest partnering school district, according to a release.

“Jeffco Public Schools has a long-standing positive relationship with Firefly, and we are pleased they are going to be our neighbors. This school has a long history in our district, and we are excited it will remain an educational facility serving students not only in Jeffco, but from the entire metro area,” said Jason Glass, superintendent for Jeffco Schools in in a statement.

Renovations for Firefly Autism's new Lakewood location, built in 1947, include plans to add a cafeteria, reconfigure classrooms and offices and rebuild the property's parking lot.

To help pay for renovations, Firefly Autism is aiming to raise $5 million through its “Vision 2020: No Place Like Home” campaign.

“It's important we keep fundraising to get this new location open so that no one has to go through that fear wondering what their child's life will be like. The earlier someone (with autism) gets therapy, the more functional they can be,” said Taylor. “I get choked up, it's such a big deal.”

According to the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Network, a group of programs that estimates the number of children with autism and other developmental disabilities in the country, 21.4 % of children in Colorado have an intellectual disability.

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