Autism Program  "Hope Begins Here"                 

What is Autism?


Autism is a neurological disorder disrupting and delaying the normal developmental processes that occur in the first two years of life.  Children with autism typically experience prominent delays in the development of language, non-verbal communication, cognitive abilities, adaptive functioning, play, and social interaction.  These delays generally cause children with autism to fall developmentally farther behind their peers as they grow older.

Research indicates that children with autism tend to learn differently than their peers.  Many seem unable to understand verbal and non-verbal communication, are confused by sensory input, and withdraw in varying degrees from people and the world around them.  Many children may become preoccupied with certain activities and objects that interfere with the development of play.  The children tend to show little interest in forming relationships with their peers and often find it difficult to learn by observing and imitating others. (McEachin & Leaf, 1999)


Our Methodologies


Stepping Stones offers two distinctive treatment methodologies for children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder: Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) and SCERTS (Social Communication Emotional Regulation and Transactional Support).  Upon meeting with our Autism Intake Coordinator where an informal assessment of the child’s skills takes place, parents are given information about each methodology so that they may make a choice about which intervention will be the best fit for their family and child.




Whether your child is part of our ABA Program or our SCERTS Program, there are a wide range of services at Stepping Stones designed to meet the ever-changing needs of our students.  Due to several relatively common challenges most children with an autism spectrum disorder face, the majority of the students in our autism program receive Special Education Itinerant Teacher (SEIT) services, Speech Language Pathology/Therapy services, and Psychological services.  Additionally, many children receive Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Music Therapy, Counseling or Social Work, Teacher Assistant or Paraprofessional services, and Assistive Technology Services.  Stepping Stones offers a range of classroom opportunities for children as well, including: full and half day opportunities, integrated classes, special classes, and Early Intervention classes.  Rounding out our service continuum for our Early Intervention and Preschool students diagnosed with autism are a range of service delivery options in one of our four clinic spaces at Stepping Stones.  Children who receive clinic-based ABA or SCERTS have the opportunity to come to Stepping Stones and receive method specific instruction in a clinic setting comprised of peers and other therapists.  This unique environment allows for individualized instruction while also fostering peer relationships and attending skills.

Our methodology specific psychological services are delivered by one of three NYS licensed psychologists.  Drs. John McEachin and Sandy Slater provide consultative services for children and families in ourABAprogram, and Dr. Heather Sprague provides direct services to the children and families in the SCERTS program. 

While all of the aforementioned services are available to each child, approval for these services is at the discretion of the Early Intervention designee or Committee for Preschool Special Education. 

For more information on each of these programs please click on the links provided below. 

If you would like to speak to someone directly about these programs please contact Christina Werts at or they can be contacted at (585) 467-4567.


Autism Psychological Consultations

Student consultations are held at home or in the SSLC Clinic with the family, child and staff from Stepping Stones Learning Center with the SSLC SCERTS Program Consultant, Dr. Heather Sprague, PHD.  Dr. Sprague’s consultations are a time for staff members to come together to evaluate the child’s progress and challenges of the program, school and daily living, as well as a time for the team to work directly with the child.  It is a time to answer questions, brainstorm new ideas for the development of the child’s program and to critique and develop short and long term goals for the child.  

Dr. John McEachin and Dr. Sanford Slater, from Autism Partnership of California, are Stepping Stones Learning Center’s NY State licensed psychologist and ABA Program Consultant.  Dr. John McEachin is a clinical psychologist who has been providing behavioral intervention to children with autism as well as adolescents and adults with a wide range of developmental disabilities for more than 30 years.  He received his graduate training under Professor Ivar Lovass at UCLA on the Young Autism Project.  During his 11 years at UCLA, Dr. McEachin served in various roles including Clinic Supervisor, Research and Teaching Assistant, Visiting Professor and Acting Director.  His research has included the long-term follow-up study of young autistic children who received intensive behavioral treatment, which was published in 1993.  In 1994 he joined with Ron Leaf in forming Autism Partnership, which they co-direct and they have co-authorized a widely used treatment manual, A Work in Progress.  Dr. McEachin has lectured throughout the world and has helped establish treatment centers and classrooms for children with autism in North America,Australia, Asia and Europe.

Sanford Slater, Ph.D., is aCalifornia and [will be] NY Licensed Psychologist who specializes in Applied Behavior Analysis.  He has worked with children and adults who have been diagnosed with autism and other developmental disabilities since 1981.  As an undergraduate student at UCLA, he studied under Ivar Lovaas, and worked with Ron Leaf and John McEachin on the Young Autism Project.  For more than two years, he served as a Therapist, Senior Therapist, Research Assistant and Teaching Assistant.  He earned his Masters Degree from Eastern Michigan University and a Ph. D. in Clinical and Health Psychology from theUniversity of Floridain 1990.  He joined Drs. Leaf and McEachin at Autism Partnership in 1996 where he supervises treatment cases in the greater Los Angeles area and provides consultation and training to families, treatment agencies and school districts throughout the United States,Canada and England.

The ongoing communication between the Autism Coordinator and the Specialists with the psychologists, is crucial for curriculum and program development.  This is achieved through phone calls, e-mail, and site visits.