more than 6,000 West Virginia children have autism
Nearly all of them—and their families—are isolated in some way
CARES is working to:
- Reduce families’ isolation by growing our summer day camps, where families can enjoy an autism-friendly fun experience and connect with one another
- Increase the number of well-qualified applied behavior analysis (ABA) providers by getting grants needed to train new providers in West Virginia—and provide supports to keep them here
- Empower families by providing educational events
- Improve access to ABA services by continuing to show policymakers how vital that access is to children’s futures. Read more about our advocacy efforts here.
With autism prevalence growing to 1 in 54 children, almost everyone has a friend or family member affected by this disorder. Yet, desperately needed services are severely lacking. We want to change that.
Please read our ambassador family’s story and see how ABA services positively impacted this amazing family.
MEET OUR AMBASSADOR
Meet Our Ambassador
Meet the Clonch’s.
My name is Jared Clonch from St. Albans, WV, and I am the father of two boys; Jared Jr. (LJ) and Jacob.
Jacob was born February 3rd, 2016. He was brought into this world a healthy and happy baby; there were no indications of what the future would hold for us. On February 28th, 2016, 25 days after he came into this world, we lost my wife, Lacey, from pregnancy related complications. Hopefully, he is none the wiser and all things point to the fact that he has no idea what he has lost.
January 2018: Jacob is about 18 months old at the time and we decide that it would be a good thing to get him involved in Birth to Three. We started to notice that he would not make eye contact and was starting to lose the few words that he had. We didn’t think too much of it, because we thought Jacob was already getting the services he needed. We suspected that he would be like his brother and just have a “light switch” go off, illuminating the communication skills.
August 2019: Jacob is 3 years and 3 months old, has aged out of Birth to Three services and is still not progressing with communication skills. His way of communicating what he wants is tantrums and screaming. We also noticed he had developed some stemming tendencies, often associated with children on the spectrum. Keep in mind, we are doing regular well-child visits with the pediatrician and they do not raise any red flags.
September 2019: I attended the first annual Au-some Golf Tournament with my company, where I had the opportunity to speak with Sarah Harris and Jill McLaury about what we were seeing in Jacob. Jill recommended we set up a meeting with her and her team at Bright Futures to bring both boys in for observation. We did that informal meeting in October and it was suggested we get Jacob evaluated for autism.
Almost immediately after that meeting, we started checking around to see what therapies are available and what therapists were local to actually do an evaluation. I am pretty sure we were on four wait lists with doctors from around the Charleston-Huntington area. We were being told that it would be at least 8 months before we could be seen by anyone. We spent the next three months making weekly calls to all of the offices we were on waitlists for, hoping for an opening to see a child psychologist who could evaluate Jacob and give us definitive answers.
December 2019: We found Milestones Physical Therapy in Teays Valley. We met with them and started weekly occupational therapy (OT) and speech therapy.
January, 2020: We finally catch a break! The psychologist at Milestones has a cancellation.
February 2020: We got the results of Jacob’s evaluation and it confirmed what we had come to suspect. Jacob was diagnosed with Level 3 Autism Spectrum Disorder, which requires significant support; we knew that we must get him into Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy as soon as possible. Jacob had just turned four and we had learned that most local ABA therapy centers have a hard time making room for kids that are older than 4 years old. So, we head back over to Bright Futures and they tell us that it is unlikely we will be accepted into the program, due to age and just a lack of qualified therapists to implement the plan. We put Jacob on the waitlist anyway, hoping we catch another break and get into the program somehow.
During all of this back and forth, and wondering what we were going to do to get the help Jacob needed, we contemplated moving to Columbus, OH, Charlotte, NC, Greenville, SC, Raleigh, NC and Greensboro, NC.
February/March 2020: With our new mission laid out in front of us, and knowing that we have to do something, we were relentless in contacting Bright Futures to see if a spot had opened up for Jacob. I am sure the folks down there got tired of hearing from us. As luck would have it, we received a call from Bright Futures to discuss a possible path forward for Jacob to receive services. Of course we jumped at the chance, because who knew if or when we would have the chance to get Jacob the help he needed so close to home. On March 9th, Jacob had his first session at Bright Futures in the new training program. He was going to be receiving services Monday thru Thursday for 2 hours in the afternoon. It’s important to disclose that while some services are better than none, studies show that early, intensive ABA is most effective. It’s not unusual for children to receive as many as 30 hours a week; Jacob would be receiving 8 to start.
Jacob’s Progress: Jacob has always been a pretty good kid, you know, your typical toddler. He doesn’t always listen and makes a mess of things when given the opportunity. Even at 4 years old, he didn’t seem to have any interest in playing with other kids or joining in with LJ and myself around the house. Always kind of kept to himself unless he wanted something. When he wanted something it could turn into WWIII at our house. Since he was still not talking, it was difficult to know what he wanted or needed. Tantrums, crying, screaming were a normal part of everyday life for us. Eventually you start to think this is the new normal and as a parent it is demoralizing.
August 2020: Jacob has now been in ABA for about 3 months and, oh my, have we noticed a change. He is still not talking, but everything else has gotten worlds better. Now Jacob is a very good listener, for a 4 year old. He even helps out around the house from time to time with chores and cleaning up. He is showing much more interest in playing with me and LJ and will now imitate our play. Just in the past couple of weeks, the folks at Bright Futures introduced a device to help Jacob communicate during his sessions. They were all impressed with how quickly he has caught on and continues progressing rapidly. He still does not talk to us, but we are hopeful it is coming soon. We will catch some random words now and then which gives us hope. Everyday when I get home from work I see my little boy growing up and progressing more than I had imagined possible just 6 months ago. Jacob is doing so well that the new struggle is finding more challenging tasks and trying to increase his time spent at Bright Futures. Jill and the group are working diligently to find a way to increase his services at Bright Futures, but there still is a lack of qualified technicians and therapists to do this.
We need everyone in the community to come together and help provide funding to grow access to the necessary intervention services for kids on the autism spectrum. We consider ourselves very lucky, in the right places at the right time, to have been given the opportunity to listen to the Snyder’s share their autism journey last September, to have talked with the CARES team about my son’s struggles, to have been encouraged by them to seek an evaluation for a diagnosis, and ultimately to enroll Jacob at Bright Futures. The fight for services is daunting, and there is still a great deal of work to be done; but with the help of our gracious supporters, we are up to the task!
We couldn't do it without our
Partners & Sponsors
Bright Futures Learning Services
Bright Futures Learning Services (BFLS) is a therapy clinic and learning center in Winfield, West Virginia. The clinic primarily focuses on early intensive Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) for children on the autism spectrum. BFLS is a team of committed people who believe that every child can-and has the right to- learn.
BFLS recently began offering a precision teaching program for children who struggle academically: those with learning disabilities, dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, or ADD. Based on the Morningside Model of Generative instruction, which typically yields two years of academic progress in one, our Precision Learning program helps children who struggle with reading or math catch up on foundation skills necessary for ultimate success.
Bright Futures is changing lives every day, but its reach is limited, thus CARES was born. CARES exists to meet the greater needs of the community.
Camp Appalachia was started because of a deep desire to help serve the people of our community, especially our underserved and high-risk youth.
CARES is partnering with Camp Appalachia because we have similar goals: to serve the underserved and high-risk youth of our community.
Camp Appalachia is a year-long camp whose target camper is a child between the ages of 7 and 17 and is at high risk for destructive life choices. They provide a little to no cost camp experience to kids who are directly affected by the opioid epidemic, kids in the foster care system, and kids who have one or more parents incarcerated. They currently have a summer day camp and are in the process of bringing their ten residential cabins up to code to provide a resident camp.
Their focus? Opioid prevention, outdoor education, leadership, and resiliency building.
As a child growing up with a learning disability in southern West Virginia, Jill learned the value of early intervention first-hand. Her passion for helping children and families access evidence-based treatment lead her to obtain a bachelor’s degree in special education from Marshall University in 1997 and a master’s in behavior analysis from the University of North Texas in 2004. Jill is mother to Caroline and Garrett, partner to Tim, a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, Director of Bright Futures Learning Services, a founding member of Mountaineer Autism Project and the WV Behavior Analysis Association, and WV’s policy chair for Autism Speaks. She founded CARES to help strengthen and build unity in the a-typical community and increase access to applied behavior analysis.
Jared grew up in Saint Albans, WV and currently lives in the same neighborhood where he spent his youth. He graduated from West Virginia University with a degree in Civil Engineering. After a few stops early in his career, he has settled in with a local heavy highway contractor, Orders Construction, where he is currently the Vice President. Jared is the father of two wonderful boys, Jared Jr. (LJ) and Jacob. Jacob was diagnosed with ASD in February of 2020 and is currently enrolled in an ABA therapy program. Mr. Clonch is a dedicated father and looks forward to making the world an easier place for children on the spectrum to navigate.
Kathy grew up in Pt. Pleasant, West Virginia. After attending Marshall University and obtaining a degree in Accounting, she spent the next 4 years living in Charleston, WV. She has been a resident of Teays Valley for 25 years. She began her Accounting career working for Ernst & Young as a CPA in the audit and tax divisions. After having her son, Tyler, she decided to leave public practice and was the Controller of Exclusive Home Designs, Ltd. for over 20 years. During this time, she also began accepting individual and corporate accounting and tax clients. She is now the owner of her own practice, Rittenhouse Accounting Services which has been in business for over 10 years. Over the last 20 years, she has been active in a number of children’s charities through her church and beyond. Kathy is currently the Treasurer of St. John United Methodist Church and the director of their Vacation Bible School. She serves on the board of several charities.
Kathy works as an advocate for children with special needs and other disadvantages and was truly grateful for the chance to join the CARES board.
Kathy is an avid traveler, loves to read, and is involved in numerous activities in the community and church. Her greatest joy is spending time with her son, family, and friends. She hopes to continue to make this world a better place by advocating for children with special needs so they can enjoy this beautiful world to its full advantage.
Dr. Steele is currently an Associate Professor and Chair in the Department of Social Work at West Virginia State University. She earned her MSW from Tulane University and her PhD in Social Work from the University of Georgia. She has 12 years of experience as a social worker with community-based agencies, including 5 years as the Director of a homeless shelter for women and children in Georgia. Dr. Steele has worked, researched, and taught in the areas of generalist social work practice, poverty, behavioral health, and substance abuse. She has served as the Principal Investigator or Co-PI on several federal grants and is the Co-Director of the West Virginia State University Healthy Grandfamilies Program.
Bio coming soon.
Vicki was born in Parkersburg, West Virginia, but has spent the past 17 years living in the Barboursville area. She is a graduate of West Virginia University with a degree in Accounting. Prior to spending several years out of the workforce to raise her children, Vicki worked for the WV Parkways Authority and Children’s Home Society of WV. She has been a Controller at Medical Practice Management Solutions for the past 8 years, where she works with a diverse group of clients that include several ABA clinics and practices.
Vicki is a fierce advocate for children with special needs and welcomed a chance to join the CARES board because she knows first-hand the challenges involved in raising a child on the autism spectrum. Her 16-year-old son Grant provides all the inspiration she needs to help other children and their families develop a strong support network. Helping others is her way of “paying forward” all of the wonderful support her family has received from members of the special needs community.
First and foremost, Vicki is a mom. She spends a lot of her time volunteering as a booster and supporting her children’s school activities. She is also an avid WVU fan and spends as much time as possible in Morgantown with her husband Pat and her two sons Seth and Grant.
Deidra is a pediatric speech-language pathologist and mother to a son with autism. Deidra has watched ABA change her son’s life, so she strongly advocates for more ABA services in the state of West Virginia. She is an author and blogger who shares her story in hopes of helping other families receive services and see their children thrive and reach their highest potential.
Sarah is CARES’ first Executive Director. With an educational background in small business management and organizational leadership and development, Sarah has 10 years of business management experience and 2 years of non-profit experience. Most importantly, as a mother of a child with autism, Sarah intimately understands the need for additional supports and activities and is dedicated to providing opportunities for all children with autism, and their families, to thrive.