Helping Those with Autism Navigate the Pandemic

The Kelberman Center has continued to provide services to clients

By Megan Plete Postol

While the pandemic raged and ravaged lives both locally and globally, agencies responsible for helping those with autism stepped up to guide their clients through uncharted territory.

Recent research published by the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders found that the majority of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder experienced significant, ongoing disruption to their daily lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many individuals with ASD share similar characteristics of sensory sensitivity, social and communicative differences, and a preference for routine, making the closure of schools, clinics, and community programs especially troublesome.

“Throughout the pandemic there have been multiple challenges facing our agency and the children, adults and families which we support,” said Tara Costello, executive director of The Kelberman Center. “The Kelberman Center has continued to provide services to children, adults and their families either through in-person or telehealth appointments.”

The Kelberman Center is the leading provider of autism services for children, adults and families in the Mohawk Valley and Central New York. It provides comprehensive programming and services for people throughout all phases of life, from early childhood through adulthood. The programs and services cover the full range of human experience, including home and community-based services, education, clinical, residential services and recreation.

“Our goal is to meet people and families where they are in life and to support them every step of the way on their journeys navigating autism,” Costello said. “The expert staff at The Kelberman Center empowers the people we support with specialized, one-of-a-kind programs, resources, support and wrap-around services, creating a fulfilling, life-enriching experience for people and families.”

All levels of The Kelberman Center’s programs were affected by the pandemic, including the Promise preschool program.

“Our youngest learners and their amazing teachers and classroom staff, like many other schools nation-wide, were made to pivot quickly and transition to hybrid and remote learning,” Costello said. “Our staff and parents rose to the challenge to the best of their abilities, however. They worked together to make this change feasible for our students so that they would still be able to access these critical preschool and therapy services throughout the pandemic.”

The Kelberman Center’s Clinic program also experienced challenges due to restrains of the pandemic. People requiring services were able to access them through telehealth, which Costello said has been a great opportunity for staff to continue to provide ongoing services for families despite these challenges.

The staff at The Kelberman Center also experienced challenges in working with people who require help understanding how to access their community safely.

“As many of our individuals either live alone or in a residential setting, we have helped them to safely access these services such as medical care, groceries, etc.,” Costello said. “Overall, while the challenges have been difficult for our children and adults adjusting to the drastic changes and expectations of the pandemic, we have and continue to work through each obstacle to ensure that services stay as ‘normal’ as possible for the people we support.”

Keeping clients’ lives running as smoothly as possible while still keeping them safe has been the top priority.

“Families who felt comfortable continuing with face-to-face services such as evaluations, vocational and mentoring programs were able to do so thanks to our dedicated staff who made sure they took the extra precautions in order to be able to provide those in-person services,” Costello said. “Other clients choose to receive their services via telehealth, where they were still able to work one-on-one or in group settings with staff members on social skills or other counseling or educational services. We are proud that throughout the toughest time, the people we support were still able to receive services, reinforcing the continuity of care that The Kelberman Center provides.”

Costello is proud of the way her staff has risen to meet and exceed expectation during this time of challenge.

“The sheer imagination of our staff during this time has not surprised me, as they have always been outstanding in their care and support of the children and adults. But, their creativity was really taken to the next level during this time,” she said. “As our individuals were no longer able to go on outings into the community for shopping, dining, volunteering and socialization, our staff invented some pretty amazing opportunities for them right in their homes or through telehealth. Walks and activities outside, games and artistic creations, talent shows, movie nights, etc. all arranged by our dedicated residential staff, really showcased their ability to go way above and beyond in handling the challenges facing the people we support.”

The Kelberman Center 2021 virtual Walk for Autism is taking place throughout the month of April. This is an opportunity for community supporters, businesses, families and friends to raise money to support programs and services at The Kelberman Center, so they can continue to make a life-changing impact on children and adults with autism and their families into the future. To learn more about The Kelberman Center or the 2021 virtual Walk for Autism, please visit