Letter from Program Coordinator




            Thank you so much for your interest in the Autism Services Department at Stepping Stones Learning Center.  Our department always has a lot of information to share, so please check with us frequently for updates and a listing of upcoming events.

            During my senior in high school I took a psychology class where we were asked to write a paper on a disability.  I chose one of the first on the list we were given – Autism.  As I researched autism and wrote my paper I was left with more questions than answers and an interest to better understand this mystery.  As a college student I continued to study autism via research and case observation.  In my senior year of college I was awarded an internship at a very new preschool in West Irondequoit that served children with autism – Stepping Stones Learning Center. 

            Through this internship and subsequent employment I developed a passion for teaching young children with autism.  Despite the uncertain future much of the research painted for children with autism at that time, I began to see that their futures were in fact, completely unwritten.  I came to understand the power of excellent teaching coupled with high expectations and a desire to respect, support, and nurture a child. 

            The management team at Stepping Stones comprised of Program Supervisors and Specialists that work directly with each child and family are equally passionate and committed to ensuring that every child’s strengths and interests are fostered, weaknesses are developed, and that the child is treated as an individual deserving of respect, dignity, and understanding.  Because of a belief from the Founder all the way down at Stepping Stones in the importance of the integrity and individuality of each child we have been able to create a program that stands out locally, regionally, and nationally as being an exemplar of comprehensive services for children with autism.  

Of critical importance are the ideas:

  • Every child is an individual with unique strengths and challenges.  Thus we will not project a generic treatment plan that is designed to encompass every child.  Our intervention is grounded in research, yet crafted to address an individual child and family.
  • Every child must have a manner in which to communicate that is universally understood.
  • Behavior is a form of communication.  Our charge is to uncover what is being said by the behavior.
  • All children should laugh and smile every day and an interaction with one of our students is not complete if that doesn’t happen.
  • Academics are only one small piece of a very large puzzle.  There are dozens of other skills that enhance the quality of life for a child and family.  Some of those include:  sleeping habits, problem solving, being able to get a haircut or go to the dentist with minimal discomfort, tolerating change, getting a family picture taken, knowing how to open a gift, making and keeping friends, and eating a variety of foods. 
  • The trust of a child (and family) is priceless.  We will do everything in our power every day to be worthy of that trust.

I know I speak for not only myself, but the management team and direct service providers when I say that we are honored and privileged to have worked with so many families and children over the years.  We are excited about what the future holds for Stepping Stones and our students.





                                                Mary Richardson, MS SpEd

                                                Autism Program Coordinator