Kayleigh Norton, Applied Behavior Analysis therapist, reviews animals and colors with six-year-old Carl. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Sloan).

Five new centers dedicated to providing behavioral services to the growing number of children on the autism spectrum are opening on Long Island, including what’s billed as the first-ever beach-based facility, officials said.

Huntington-based Gersh ABA Services opened centers in West Hempstead, Glen Cove, and Glen Head, with two more to follow in Hauppauge and West Hills at the organization’s West Hills Day Camp campus. It’s a provider of Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), which is used to teach those with autism a skill set so they can appropriately adapt to their environment. Many children with autism receive ABA services at home, but LI has been lacking in center-based behavioral treatment that offers the key additional element of socialization.

“There are not enough services available to help treat children with autism despite the fact that the number of diagnoses continues to increase,” said Kevin Gersh, Founder of The Gersh Organization. “Our centers are intended to address this significant problem by providing individuals on the spectrum as well as their families with a unique resource that is currently missing from the area.”

About one in 59 American children are estimated to have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) as of 2014, up from one in 150 in 2000, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. About 27,000 children now diagnosed on Long Island, according to officials at Gersh, which also operates facilities in Seattle, Indiana, and in Puerto Rico, where additional academies are planned.

One of the new centers on LI will be a state-of-the art equine center. While many children with autism are currently treated at home, a more socialized setting can often offer an alternative for individuals with autism and their families, Gersh said. The new centers from Gersh ABA Services are unique because they provide a combination of both one-on-one therapy and a stimulating group atmosphere to improve attending, peer interaction and generalization. In addition to these long-term benefits, the program also works hard to help children have a steady growth of social relationships—something that can prove invaluable in everyday settings.

“We’ll have complete one-on-one support, with the support of a [Board Certified Behavioral Analyst] that oversees all the cases,” said Joe Laudadio of Gersh ABA Services. “Our whole philosophy here is we don’t want parents waiting. There’s huge wait lists all across Long Island. Our goal here is to make sure that everybody has a place to go to and has a way to help with their behaviors and addressing some of the things that go on with autism.”

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The Gersh Academy in West Hempstead
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