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Gary, IN: Autism therapy center opens; hopes to expand

When families first walk into Great Expectations, they are greeted by an eye-catching graphic.

"If you think my hands are full, you should see my heart," the sign reads.

For families who have children on the autism spectrum, finding appropriate education and care can be a challenge. For families in Gary, options within city limits are limited. However, they will soon have another option in Great Expectations, an applied behavior analysis center for children with autism, set to officially open June 24….

Leaders hope to expand programming.

"We are here for everyone, from the first diagnosis to when they graduate high school," Director Marilyn Shanks said. "They don't have to feel alone.".

The center, 4950 Broadway, has multiple classrooms, a conference room, a recreational gym room and a sensory room; the latter is designed to provide comfort and calm to children with sensory-processing challenges. Students will have the opportunity to work daily with a registered behavior technician who helps with behavior regulation and social skills.

Shanks said she was inspired to start Great Expectations because she has a nephew with autism and noticed how many of his behaviors go unmonitored because of a lack of available resources. But she had a boss whose two autistic children were enrolled in programs where they received specialized attention, and she noticed positive changes in their behavior.

That got her wondering how her nephew's behavior might have changed if he had access to more resources from a young age like they did.

"So I decided to push for more resources here," she said….

"I have parents calling me, saying they've been on program waitlists for two to three, even four to five years," Shanks said.

She hopes families who have been waiting to enroll their children in programs will explore options through Great Expectations. …

"We really need good people to provide these services, to provide kids with a voice," Brouwer said. "I absolutely love what I do and love to work with families to find a holistic approach to treatment."


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