ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The town of Irondequoit has finalized an official partnership with local organization Autism Up. Staff members said this means more opportunities for autistic individuals and their loved ones in and around Irondequoit.
In 2019, the town became an autism-friendly community.
Town Supervisor Rory Fitzpatrick said they’ve been brainstorming ways to carry out this commitment. With the designation, come a few goals: increasing awareness and inclusivity.
“Everybody knows somebody that is affected by autism, whether directly or a family member, family friend,” said Fitzpatrick.
To follow through on the town’s promise, the new partnership formed naturally.
Autism Up is a local organization that started in 2004, when a group of moms wanted more resources, and a safe space to talk about their children with autism. Jeanne Ricigliano is one of the directors there.
“It can impact every single aspect of someone’s life, because of the needs, depending on the needs,” said Ricigliano, Director of the Center for Community Transition. “It can affect living, earning, learning and relationships.”
Ricigliano said she ran into Fitzpatrick at a local autism event this spring. Also in attendance, was Megan Hoffman; director of operations at Irondequoit Community Center.
“The three of us started talking at a Autism Up event, on ways to promote inclusivity around Irondequoit,” she said.
Shortly after, the board voted to make it an official partnership, which means more opportunities are in the works; something Hoffman said they’ve been getting a lot of requests for.
Hoffman says they already offer programs ranging from martial arts to music therapy and financial literacy. The response so far has been amazing.
“And that’s what we want everyone to know, we’re here, we have this wonderful collaboration,” said Ricigliano.
Fitzpatrick hopes they can continue to reach those near and those farther out.
“We want our residents to be comfortable but we also want surrounding communities and anybody affected to be comfortable coming to Irondequoit, coming to our community center,” he said.
Hoffman said in their community center, they also have employment opportunities at the café for those who are on the Autism spectrum. That ties into the financial literacy classes being offered — as real-life experience putting skills to work.
The Autism Council of Rochester regularly meets with town officials and goes through a checklist with eight pillars the town is scored on. Some of those include community partnership, communication, and safety.