CARES:  Building the world that should be for West Virginia families facing autism.

Community Autism Resources & Education Systems (CARES) is a West Virginia-based nonprofit organization.

The mission of CARES contains four elements: unity, reprieve, access, and evolution.

The CARES story begins with a little girl named Jill.  Jill grew up with learning difficulties. Her parents fought and advocated for her, ensuring that she received the help that she so desperately needed.  With extra help, hard work, and perseverance, Jill graduated with a bachelor’s degree in special education from Marshall University in 1997. During her time at Marshall, she met a little boy named Mike.  Mike had his own challenges to overcome, and Jill saw him make great strides through Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). She knew that she wanted to help more children like herself and like Mike – children who had unique challenges, yet great potential.  Jill graduated with a master’s degree in behavior analysis from the University of North Texas in 2004.

Jill McLaury, M.S., BCBA, is now the Director of Bright Futures Learning Services (BFLS), an ABA clinic based in Winfield, West Virginia.  Since the early days of “being a school for one” (that “one” being Mike), BFLS has grown into a 7,000+ square foot, customized home that serves 20+ children daily.  Hundreds of children have received life-changing ABA therapy through this amazing clinic.

But…

Jill still saw a great need within the community – a need that far exceeded the capacity of Bright Futures. So she gathered a group of parents and community leaders together on a mission to address the growing disparities in our region. This group is dedicated to raising funds that will provide outreach and educational opportunities for individuals with ASD and their families.

So now we bring you: CARES – the nonprofit side of Bright Futures Learning Services.

Through CARES, we hope to serve the larger community and ultimately reach more children and families than can be served through the clinic.  The special needs community is near and dear to our hearts, and we here at CARES strive to provide:

  •         resources for life enrichment in a safe and respectful environment
  •         provide training resources to families
  •         support research into and the development of educational opportunities for children with  ASD and other learning challenges
  •         support professional development for applied behavior analysis (ABA) providers
  •         fund outreach efforts to train ABA providers to work in Appalachia
  •         provide financial assistance to individuals with special needs to increase their ability to participate in the clinical services and diverse educational opportunities needed to foster growth and independence.

Through dedication and hard work, many lives have been positively changed through ABA.  CARES is dedicated to bringing this life-changing therapy to more families.

Love is truly at the center of our mission: we love the special needs community and want the world to love and accept them.  CARES is dedicated to showing our love by fostering acceptance within our community.

As with any worthy mission, our path may be a difficult one.  As autism prevalence increases (now 1:59), our target population is growing.  West Virginia is currently experiencing a devastating opioid epidemic, and many children have become its victims.  This requires more work, more advocacy, more outreach, more training, and more education…

…but we have hope.

We have hope that educators and families of the special needs community will grow stronger, more united, and be better equipped to serve their family members, friends, and students in need.  We have hope that our community will support us in our endeavors. We know that, together, we can do this.