In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Denise Rocker’s 11-year-old son Noah was diagnosed with autism. Unsure where to turn next, an agency in Westmoreland County provided her with information on Pressley Ridge’s Autism Groups – an Intensive Behavioral Health Services program for children and adolescents ages 6-18 who have received a diagnosis of autism. Denise spoke with Program Supervisor Jennifer Fritz, who enthusiastically explained the program and its benefits for Noah. The fact that Pressley Ridge groups were safely meeting in person was an important selling point for Denise.

Noah attended his first Therapeutic Social Group in October 2020 and, afterwards, told his mom that it was the best two hours of his life. Denise said, “I almost cried with joy, because it was the first time he was accepted by his peers.”

The social skills group helps children with autism practice skills which lead to building successful relationships with peers. Each child in the group has an individualized treatment plan that focuses on specific skills. The two-hour long sessions begin with a preferred activity, such as a video game or Legos, to help the child feel comfortable integrating into the group. Participants then gather for a group meeting with structured conversation about the topic of the day and an opportunity to share ideas. The youth then move into small group activities like playing board games to practice taking turns, accepting others’ opinions, engaging in conversation with friends and other social skills.

During a time when Denise had so much to worry about on top of the new diagnosis, she was never concerned about the health of her child. Not only were the staff helping Noah develop his communication and social skills, they were ensuring his safety by strictly following the recommended guidelines.

In the short time that Denise has been with Pressley Ridge, she can already see that “it is
the type of organization that truly cares about the services they provide and wants to do the best they can for the people receiving them.”

In addition to these Therapeutic Social Groups, youth with autism and their families can find support through the Pressley Ridge School for Autism and its Extended School Year program, as well as the Adult Community Integration program. Click here for more information about these Pressley Ridge autism services.