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Lisa was counting down the days until her son, Matthew, could join UCP’s Autism Center for Excellence at Sacramento State.

“The only programs I found before ACE were maybe 90 minutes in a sterile room with no pictures, just a chalkboard, a toy or game and discussions about what behaviors were appropriate,” Lisa said.

At age 2, Matthew was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified, which lies along the autism spectrum, but was not diagnosed with autism and hyperlexia (another common component of autism) until age 6.

He was diagnosed as high functioning in skills like math and reading, but socially, he was behind.

After the diagnosis, Matthew’s doctor handed Lisa a pile of pamphlets, but all the acronyms made her head swim. No one in her family had autism, so she had to start at the beginning with all of her research. Clicking around online one night, she found ACE As soon as Matthew turned 8 years old, she enrolled him, and at age 11 he now attends three days a week for three hours a day.

“He loves it,” Lisa said. “There’s a lot going on. The interns and kids get messy and crawl around on the floor and play. There’s noise and distractions, and the interns are young adults, so it’s more fun. It’s so different from the other programs I saw when I first started my research.”

Matthew’s social skills are improving, too. He was recently invited to a birthday party for a peer at school, and it was held at a trampoline dodgeball facility. As he bounced on the trampoline, he asked one of the kids to pass him the ball.

“That simple act of asking for the ball made him fit in – and I know he learned that at ACE.”

He also tells kids “good job” just as he is told at ACE, and he now shakes hands when he meets people.

“ACE is a critical partner for Matthew’s success – combined with his own abilities, his time mainstreamed at school and all the patient people in his life, ACE has helped him be a happy kid.”

Matthew loves video games, electronics, anything Disney and going to Dave and Busters.

UCP’s Autism Center for Excellence (ACE) is a center based ABA (Behavioral Therapy) program designed to meet the special needs of children with autism.