"ISRAEL"

Our son, Israel, was diagnosed with having Autism, and now attends Augusta Levy Learning Center in Wheeling, WV.

Pilot Program Gives Boys With Autism Life Skills

On a recent Wednesday morning, three young boys attended to their tasks of straightening, flattening and stacking plastic grocery sacks at the Catholic Neighborhood Center on 18th Street in Wheeling.

Ages 7-9, each was accompanied by a therapist who never left his side. One of the boys chattered constantly in a language seemingly all his own and sometimes emitted a whoop or a squeal. One occasionally got distracted throwing bags up so they filled with air. The third might have crumpled a bag here and there before being reminded to smooth it out.

But after a whole hour of bag duty, these worker bees were ready to move on to their next task, the meal line, where they spent the next hour scooping, sealing and bagging meals that would be delivered to about 180 homebound people.

The boys are students at Augusta Levy Learning Center in Wheeling, where they receive therapies that help them to learn, function and navigate their way through life with autism.

In October, 9-year-old Lincoln, 8-year-old Aidan and 7-year-old Israel “Izzy” started a pilot program for pre-adolescents who are not yet ready for the transition to a typical public school.

Every Wednesday, the three boys board a public bus outside the center in North Wheeling, hand the driver their money and sit in the same seats each as they trundle through town to the East Wheeling neighborhood center operated by Catholic Charities of West Virginia.

They spend two hours working there before taking another bus to a grocery store, where they get to pick out whatever food they want to buy with the few dollars their parents put in their backpacks that morning. For Lincoln, that usually means chips. For Aidan, who has severe food allergies, it’s a banana or grapes. Then, they go out to eat with their therapists, where they practice restaurant etiquette before heading back to the center for more lessons in independence, such as making beds, emptying the dishwasher and collecting the day’s trash. Read more

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