Health & Family

Rock Hill nonprofit focuses on helping children with autism

Through intense one-on-one therapy, Chrysalis Autism Center in Rock Hill is changing lives.

“One in 68 kids is now diagnosed with autism. If these children don’t get intervention, they aren’t going to reach their full potential,” said Clinical Director Tobie Presler.

The small nonprofit serves only nine children at a time. Each child spends 20-40 hours each week with a dedicated therapist, and parents are given plans to follow at home.

Presler said there are a number of theories and therapies aimed at helping children with autism, but many don’t have the science to back them up. She said Chrysalis uses early intensive behavioral intervention based on the principles of applied behavior analysis, a research-proven method of treatment for children with autism.

“The kids come to the center, and we develop an individualized treatment plan for them. Through the use of toys and other motivators, we work to decrease the excessive behavior, like behavior issues, and increase deficient behavior, like improving communication skills,” Presler said.

“We can’t guarantee that applied behavior analysis will work. But unless a child gets therapy, they are much less likely to reach their full potential. We teach them the skills they need to become active members of their community.”

Chrysalis Autism Center is just one of several hundred area nonprofits working to make a difference.

In today’s paper, you will find the Charlotte Observer’s annual Giving Guide, a list of nonprofit organizations that can use your help.

The list includes a description of what the organization does, contact information and how you can assist them.

The list includes groups working to feed the hungry, care for those who are abused or sick, or rescue abused and homeless animals.

Take Chrysalis for example. Presler said day-to-day therapy requires an enormous amount of preparation.

“We have tons and tons of pictures to be laminated, cut out and filed. We need kits organized and ready for the next day. We have many volunteer jobs that would free up our therapists so they could spend more time with the kids,” she said.

They also need donations of toys, paper goods, office supplies, specific foods for reinforcers and specific instructional materials.

The therapy is both time and resource intensive, but Presler said the payoff is worth it.

“We’ve had kids that can’t talk at three or four years but, after therapy, are now on grade level,” she said. “We’ve had parents tell us that we’ve given them their families back. They can go out in public without their child having a meltdown. They can be a family again.”

Related stories from Charlotte Observer