Courtesy of People Inc.

There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to autism, and that is clear in the approach to the People Inc. day program on Hertel Avenue in Buffalo, where all participants fall somewhere on the autism spectrum. Whether it’s creating art, gardening, reading, volunteering, or learning daily living skills, each program attendee has a daily choice of activities and varied experiences.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a bio-neurological developmental disability that generally appears before the age of three, impacting brain development in areas of social interaction, communication skills, and cognitive function. April was National Autism Awareness month, which was first recognized in 1988. Katie Radecki, Director of the Hertel Avenue program, believes we need to acknowledge autism year-round and meet people where they are. Thus, many advocates today prefer the idea of Autism Acceptance, as it recognizes autism as a natural condition, along with the ongoing need to end discrimination.

Autism can still be heavily stigmatized by the public, preventing autistic individuals from living comfortably and being accepted. “When you’re meeting or supporting someone with autism, be aware that just because they may communicate in a unique way, doesn’t mean they can’t,” says Radecki. “Don’t make assumptions. If you’ve met someone with autism, you’ve only met one person with autism. Step away from the stereotypes.”

The key to the program’s success is the individualized attention provided to each participant – each person has their own schedule, routine, and needs. There is a shared sensory room and customized sensory spaces in each activity room to meet the unique needs of those who attend. For example, Michael Egloff says being creative is a favorite way to spend his day. “I like all of the art projects and drawing the most. I’m happy here.”

While art is an important part of the programming, participants are also involved in making music, creative movement and yoga, gardening, computers, cultivating daily living skills, reading, money management, and volunteering with community organizations such as providing home-delivered meals and sorting and hanging clothes for Friends of Night People. Seasonal experiences also include visits to area farms for apple and pumpkin picking, and participating in the Miracle League Baseball team. By engaging in this wide range of activities, program participants learn to find their authentic selves in an environment that nurtures growth and encourages a fulfilling experience every day.

Tony Rivera, a senior day supervisor, and Radecki, say one of their most important responsibilities is advocating for participants, assisting them in finding their own ways to communicate and be heard, and helping members of the community see beyond their disabilities.

Learn more at or call 1-888-7PEOPLE.