By Diana Schmit, M.S.

Nearly one in four people in the United States, and over 3 million New Yorkers, live with a disability. Many of these individuals are excluded from activities and opportunities enjoyed by their non-disabled peers.

Community integration is a way to ensure that all people have access to the full spectrum of social, educational, and professional opportunities that are embedded within the existing community. This not only promotes the well-being of individuals, but also increases the overall health of the entire community. Inclusive environments allow people to receive services in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs, to foster their well-being and sense of belonging, and to develop important life skills.

As Western New York’s leading provider of services for children and adults with autism and other disabilities, The Summit Center offers the support people need to play an active role in their community. Programs include Supported Employment; S.T.E.P.S. (a community-based day program tailored to adults); Building Friendship Fridays (a program for young adults to build lasting friendships); and Community Habilitation (a one-on-one skill building program to help individuals achieve personal goals).

Kathy, whose son Kevin participates in the S.T.E.P.S. program, is encouraged by his progress, and says, “Once young adults with disabilities exit high school, opportunities for peer interactions and participation within their communities decrease significantly. S.T.E.P.S. allows my son to be meaningfully engaged in his neighborhood while volunteering and helping others. He’s been able to implement the skills he learned in school, such as socially appropriate behavior, carrying on a conversation, and working with others collaboratively.”

Diana Schmit, MS is Vice President of Community and Adult Services at The Summit Center. Learn more about Summit’s community integration programs at, or call 716-629-3400.