Since the late 1980s, a growing number of North Carolina and South Carolina parents have pursued services for their children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In 1992, a parent group, Autism Treatment Options (ATO), held a conference featuring speakers on new and alternative treatment methods for their children. Dr. Ivar Lovaas, the director of the Young Autism Project at the University of California, Los Angeles, was the featured speaker. The proceeds from the event allowed the organization to help set up a research replication site to serve families in North Carolina and South Carolina. The replication site, Autism Research Center (ARC), served children with ASD throughout the southeast with consultative-model, home-based programs.
In 2000, a group founded Families for Early Autism Treatment (FEAT) of North Carolina, a not-for-profit organization of parents and professionals with a mission to help families of children with ASD. Their objectives were to promote the use of applied behavior analysis (ABA) as a proven, effective treatment for autism; to increase the number of children using ABA; and to educate medical, educational, political, and lay communities about autism and ABA. ABA is the application of behavioral principles, such as prompting and reinforcement, to produce socially significant improvement in human behavior. In addition, a group of individuals in Winston-Salem, NC started a fund to help create a program that would provide ABA services to families who could not otherwise afford them.
In 2002, the ARC and FEAT of NC combined efforts to create ABC of NC, an organization offering center-based, one-on-one instruction, small group instruction, autism parent classes, and professional seminars. ABC of NC was the first in our community to offer these services and remains the only comprehensive autism services provider even 15 years later.
In 2011, ABC of NC earned accreditation from AdvancED. AdvancED is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that conducts rigorous, on-site external reviews of PreK-12 schools and school systems to ensure that all learners realize their full potential. AdvancED accreditation assures parents that ABC of NC is meeting nationally accepted standards for quality and professional practice. In April, 2016, ABC of NC successfully underwent the re-accreditation process and is now accredited through the year 2021.
In 2013, ABC of NC further expanded its mission and services to add a diagnostic and therapeutic clinic to its educational facility. The clinic was established primarily to address an “access to services” issue that was growing in our community. The clinic, which now accepts both private insurance and Medicaid, provides full diagnostic autism evaluations, resulting in more expedited referrals for intervention services when appropriate. In addition to essential diagnostic services, the clinic provides therapeutic services to individuals diagnosed with autism and their families, including parents and siblings.
May 2015 ushered in a new phase of growth and expansion for ABC of NC. Following more than eight years of leasing facilities on Old Vineyard Road, ABC of NC purchased property at 905 Friedberg Church Road, Winston-Salem. After completing renovations to the existing school building and making necessary grounds improvements at the new location, ABC of NC opened the doors to its new facility in December 2015.
It was clear, however, that the Piedmont Triad of North Carolina needed a comprehensive autism services campus that could move our area to the cutting edge of programming for a growing population of children, adolescents, and young adults with autism spectrum disorder. To meet this need, ABC of NC initiated its Hello World capital campaign, which funded construction of the new 26,000-square-foot SECU Autism Clinic and the Burress Activity Center, allowing ABC of NC to broaden current services and develop new programs to better serve our community.
ABC of NC’s expansion addresses a variety of needs, including shorter wait times for assessments, better access to evidence-based therapies, and the addition of adolescent and adult services. The expansion allowed ABC of NC to continue providing hope and a brighter future for individuals with autism and their families, helping them achieve their full potential.