Tag Archive | Autism

Hillcrest Goes Blue for Autism


Hillcrest Educational Centers’ Administrative Offices on South Street, Hillcrest’s Housatonic Academy, and the City of Pittsfield’s Park Square illuminated with special blue lights on the evening of Friday, April 1 in support of Autism Speaks’ global annual Light It Up Blue (LIUB) campaign to celebrate World Autism Awareness Day and Autism Awareness Month.

The lights remained lit through the entire month of April in support of Autism Awareness. We thank Limelight Productions, Inc. for providing the lighting in Park Square.

This year we are excited to announce that Downtown Pittsfield Inc., College Internship Program, UCP of Berkshire County, and Community Resources for People with Autism partnered with us to host an Autism Resource Fair and Art Show during the First Friday Arts Walk at the Downtown Pittsfield, Inc. offices from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. on Friday, April 1 followed by the lighting ceremony in Park Square at 7:30 p.m.

Our Co-Sponsors for the event:

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Next year’s event promises to be even larger and draw more awareness to the cause.

Enjoy this video of the College Internship Program students showcasing their musical talents at the Autism Resource Fair!

Campus Spotlight: Housatonic Academy Day Program

Allison Billard

Allison Billard -Program Director

Hillcrest Educational Centers’ Housatonic Academy is a therapeutic day school where the belief that all children can learn and do well is the foundation of our programming.

The Housatonic Academy program is a 12-month program, which includes a 7-week summer program. We operate on a rolling admission basis, so the students are admitted throughout the academic school year as well as during the summer months.

The academy provides individualized educational and therapeutic services that identify and build on the strengths of children and their families in a safe environment, allowing each student to reach their highest potential.

To support our children’s therapy and help them build skills for the future, Hillcrest offers multiple hands-on programs during the course of student treatment. For example, vocational programming that teaches skills to maintain rain gardens in downtown Pittsfield, certifying students in food safety and maintaining on-site greenhouses producing fresh vegetables for retail. All of these skills help students develop self-esteem and encourage them to continue their treatment in ways that can help them live independently in the future.

HA student in pool

The Housatonic Academy is licensed to serve students ages 6 through 22. Our students come to us from Berkshire County and the surrounding areas (New York, Southern Vermont). While all of our students have unique needs, the commonality is that all of our students have social-emotional or behavioral difficulties that cannot be met within the public school setting.

At the Housatonic Academy, there are classrooms that are specifically devoted to educating children on the Autism Spectrum. These classrooms utilize an Applied Behavior Analysis approach to education and behavior management.

Hillcrest Educational Centers and the City of Pittsfield’s Park Square to Participate in Autism Speaks Light it Up Blue Campaign

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                    

Hillcrest Educational Foundation, Inc.                                                          
788 South Street
Pittsfield, MA 01201

Hillcrest Educational Centers and the City of Pittsfield’s Park Square to Participate in Autism Speaks Light it Up Blue Campaign

Buildings and Landmarks will Light Up Blue as Part of a Global Initiative to Raise Awareness of Autism

PITTSFIELD, Mass. Mar. 25, 2016 – Hillcrest Educational Centers’ Administrative Offices on South Street, Hillcrest’s Housatonic Academy, and the City of Pittsfield’s Park Square will illuminate with special blue lights on the evening of Friday, April 1 in support of Autism Speaks global annual Light It Up Blue (LIUB) campaign to celebrate World Autism Awareness Day and Autism Awareness Month.

The lights will remain lit through the entire month of April in support of Autism Awareness. We thank Limelight Productions, Inc. for providing the lighting in Park Square.

Hillcrest Educational Centers is home to a residential Autism Program as well as a Therapeutic Day Program, Housatonic Academy, who also caters to a variety of populations, including students with Autism.

This year we are excited to announce that Downtown Pittsfield Inc., College Internship Program, UCP of Berkshire County, and Community Resources for People with Autism are partnering with us to host an Autism Resource Fair and Art Show during the First Friday Arts Walk at the Downtown Pittsfield, Inc. offices from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. on Friday, April 1 followed by a lighting ceremony in Park Square at 7:30 p.m.

Hillcrest and Park Square join a list of more than 10,000 iconic landmarks, businesses, communities and homes in 136 countries on all seven continents that will shine a bright light on autism. The Empire State Building in NYC, Niagara Falls in Canada, the Sydney Opera House in Australia, the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy, and even the International Space Station have all joined Autism Speaks along with Hillcrest’s Administrative Offices and Park Square in support of the millions of families affected by autism.

Throughout the month of April, Pittsfield residents can support their neighbors and friends by participating in Light It Up Blue. Visit www.autismspeaks.org/LIUB for fun and creative ways to shine a bright light on Autism.


DATE:            Friday, April 1, 2016
TIME: 7:30 p.m.
PLACE: Illuminated Landmarks include:
City of Pittsfield
Park Square
Pittsfield, MA 01201


Additional Buildings include:
Hillcrest Educational Centers
788 South Street
Pittsfield, MA 01201

Hillcrest’s Housatonic Academy
1450 West Housatonic Street
Pittsfield, MA 01201


About Hillcrest Educational Foundation

A top area employer, Hillcrest Educational Foundation is a private not-for-profit agency, serving students from across the country. Hillcrest was started as an organization that provided residential programs for students with complex psychiatric, behavioral and/or developmental disorders, including autism, and a variety of high-risk behaviors. While the agency still provides these residential services, today Hillcrest also offers nonresidential day programs and services for emotionally/behaviorally disturbed students at their Housatonic Academy, general family dentistry at Hillcrest Dental Care and outpatient mental health services for children, adolescents and adults through Hillcrest Community Support Services. Hillcrest’s Administrative Offices are located at 788 South Street, Pittsfield, MA 01201. More information is available at www.hillcrestec.org.

About Downtown Pittsfield, Inc.

Downtown Pittsfield, Inc. fosters the on-going growth and vitality of downtown through vision, leadership and advocacy and to position downtown as the creative and business hub of the Berkshires for the benefit of all. Visit us at http://www.downtownpittsfield.com.

About Limelight Productions, Inc.

Limelight® has served the production and technical needs of the entertainment industry for well over 40 years. They have served national clients such as ABC News, HBO, Discover Channel, E Center, Sony Films, DreamWorks, Magic School Bus Tour and Pilobolus Dance Theatre. Our client list also includes the Williamstown Theatre Festival, Tanglewood, Berkshire Choral Festival, Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, among many other well-known organizations.

About College Internship Program

The College Internship Program (CIP), is a national postsecondary transition program for teens and young adults with autism and other learning differences, offering year-round and summer programs at six locations nationwide. For more information about CIP and their comprehensive services, visit www.cipworldwide.org.

About UCP of Berkshire County

United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) Association of Berkshire County — an affiliate of United Cerebral Palsy Association — was established in 1961. UCP of Berkshire County offers support and advocacy for any individual, regardless of disability, to pursue a fulfilling, self-determined, high-quality community life — a life without limits.  The UCP mission is to advance the independence, productivity and full citizenship of people with disabilities. 

About Community Resources for People with Autism

Community Resources for People with Autism provides support, information, educational advocacy and practical help for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders and their families living in western Massachusetts.

We help families build on their strengths, work together to create a positive vision and reality for the future, and help children grow and be welcomed as fully included members of their community. For more information about Community Resources for People with Autism, please contact our Easthampton office at 413.529.2428, our Pittsfield office at 413.443.4780 x 19, or link to our website: http://www.theassociationinc.org.

 About Autism

Autism is a general term used to describe a group of complex developmental brain disorders – autism spectrum disorders – caused by a combination of genes and environmental influences. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by communication difficulties, social and behavioral challenges, and repetitive behaviors. An estimated 1 in 68 children in the U.S. is on the autism spectrum.

About Autism Speaks

Autism Speaks is the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization. It is dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. Autism Speaks was founded in February 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright, the grandparents of a child with autism. Mr. Wright is the former vice chairman of General Electric and chief executive officer of NBC and NBC Universal. Since its inception, Autism Speaks has committed more than $525 million to its mission, the majority in science and medical research. Each year Walk Now for Autism Speaks events are held in more than 100 cities across

North America. On the global front, Autism Speaks has established partnerships in more than 60 countries on five continents to foster international research, services and awareness. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit AutismSpeaks.org.

Media Contact:
Hillcrest Educational Centers, Inc.
Katrina Cardillo
Director of Communications
413-499-7924 ext. 114


Hillcrest’s Graduate Program

Hillcrest Educational Centers and Endicott College have partnered together once again to offer a Graduate Certificate Program in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). The courses are held at the Hillcrest administrative offices in Pittsfield, MA.

Hillcrest will be starting their second course in February with 10 students. The classes will be held Tuesday evenings from 5 pm – 8 pm.

Endicott College offers a Master’s Degree in Autism and ABA and an autism certificate for students who wish to specialize in meeting the complex needs of this Van Loan Schoolpopulation. Autism is a complex disorder, with behavioral, learning, and social characteristics that require comprehensive and coordinated intervention. Furthermore, autism is a spectrum disorder, and is manifested quite differently in different learners. Understanding the disorder is not achieved with exposure to one or a few children with this diagnosis, or with a few lectures on it. It is a many-layered disability that requires in-depth training.

The Master’s Degree is a 39-credit program that emphasizes the dual skill set of an in-depth understanding of autism spectrum disorders and a broad understanding of the principles and procedures of Applied Behavior Analysis. Six courses in ABA are offered. Graduates of the program will have fulfilled the educational requirements to sit for the national examination administered by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board. Seven courses in autism are also included, enabling the student to attain a deep and broad understanding of how autism spectrum disorders are manifested. Graduates of this program will be uniquely qualified to apply the most effective interventions to this challenging population.

The certificate program is designed for students who seek the in-depth autism training, but who already possess a master’s degree and are already a BCBA. Often, prior graduate training has not provided in-depth exposure to state of the art information about the nature, diagnosis, definition, or treatment of autism. Students who plan to specialize in educating persons with autism may want to pursue this certificate to obtain the specialized training and to develop this unique skill set.

Both of the programs are hybrid online and F2F formats, with most of the instruction delivered online.


Contact :
Cheryl Richards
Director of Workforce Development
Phone: (413) 499-7924 ext. 118
Email: crichards@hillcrestec.org


What’s the Scoop about the Scooper Dooper?!


Ellie Sorrentino, ASD Teacher

Guest Blogger: Ellie Sorrentino, Teacher at the Hillcrest ASD Program


Since we have distributed our first issue of our newsletter we have been asked the same question: “What is the Scooper Dooper?” Well, first let’s start with the name. A strong supporter of our Hillcrest Autism Spectrum Disorders Residential Program has a catch phrase “that’s the scooper dooper”. This phrase is just that, catchy. Our staff and some of our students have caught this phrase and added it to our everyday vocabulary. When asking one of our students why they like to say it they instantly laugh and reply “its fun to say!” Our students love to joke and say silly things with one another and staff. That is what we are all about, having fun!

Over the summer the Hillcrest education department was given the challenge to create a summer curriculum with a common theme to educate our students over the summer months. The theme was intended to provide students with a fun way to learn while still targeting their educational goals. Themes also had to relate to the Massachusetts Common Core Frameworks by choosing a content area or two as the foundation of the curriculum. The teachers within the Autism Spectrum Disorders Residential Program brainstormed some great ideas and settled on the idea of choosing writing as our foundation to produce a newsletter. Being that our program is relatively new to Hillcrest and the community of Berkshire County we thought this would be a great way to show everyone who we are and what we do. While having fun, of course!

Now that we had the big idea, our teachers worked hard to find individual educational targets that aligned to a different common core standard for our 21 students. Once these targets were identified our teachers got to the fun part in creating materials and activities that we could use to contribute to the newsletter. We shined on our students’ skills of writing, their artistic talent, their communication and social skills, vocational work, and more! Through this project our students were able to put these skills to work as well as experience some great field trips! Some of our students went to the local Farmer’s Market to buy some healthy foods while others explored our town of Lenox by visiting a variety of community places and greeting our community helpers. We are certainly surrounded by a great community so our teachers were just as excited as our students were to gain these experiences. Our teachers then worked even harder to put together all of the students’ work and pictures to represent this curriculum project as well as capture the skills our students have to offer.   Thus, the first issue of the Scooper Dooper was born.

Once this newsletter was ready to put to press our students along with our staff took a great deal of pride in this work. Teamwork is a common theme in our program that is seen every day in all that we do. So make sure you read through our first issue to learn more about the amazing work our staff do to teach our students and make such a big difference! Well, “that’s the scooper dooper” on that. Now the question we often hear is “When is the next one?”, stay tuned for the next issue of the Scooper Dooper in April!

In the meantime, check out the first edition of The Scooper Dooper here!

Hillcrest Launches Dual M.Ed. & BCBA Graduate Program

ECLogo_WM_BlackHillcrest Educational Centers and Endicott College’s Van Loan School have partnered to offer a local graduate program.  The program will provide both a Masters in Special Education and training required for Board Certification in Behavior Analysis (BCBA).

The Certificate Program in Applied Behavior Analysis at the Van Loan School is a unique, advanced-level teacher preparation program focused on the application of behavioral principles in addressing the needs of exceptional learners. The program fulfills the educational requirements to sit for the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) examination.

Individuals who hold a graduate degree in Special Education, Psychology, or a related field and who are seeking certification as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), may also enroll in Endicott’s BACB-approved, six-course sequence in preparation for the certification examination.

Todd Castine, Director of Autism Services stated, “This is an exciting time for Hillcrest and the local community.  Hillcrest will have the opportunity to recruit high quality candidates to study Special Education and Applied Behavior Analysis with the hope that they will also be interested in working in the Autism Spectrum Disorder field.   It is our hope that graduates will develop their skills with us and then continue to work here at Hillcrest and throughout the Berkshires”.

For more information about this program please contact Todd Castine, Director of Autism Services at Hillcrest Educational Centers at 413-637-2834 ext. 225 or tcastine@hillcrestec.org.

Campus Spotlight: Autism Spectrum Disorder Program (ASD)

Autism AwarenessAutism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Program Overview

Our Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Residential Program, run by Hillcrest’s Director of Autism Services, Todd Castine, offers highly-specialized day, and intensive residential treatment services for children and adolescents at all levels of the Autism spectrum.

The Program’s high staff-to-student ratio ensures a safe, caring and highly-structured treatment environment. To monitor progress, we use state-of-the-art data collection and analysis systems for ongoing assessments of:

Social Needs • Communication • Academic/Skill Acquisition •Vocational Needs • Recreation • Behavioral Difficulties

Our team of professionals and support staff are led by an administrative team with decades of experience in the treatment of Autism. All facets of treatment provided in this program are supervised by Board Certified Behavior Analysts.

Todd Castine, Director of Autism Services

Todd Castine, Director of Autism Services


In the Residential Program, all space has been specifically designed for the safety and special needs of the Autism population. Our classrooms have features that help minimize distractions while maximizing learning opportunities during the school day. To ensure that students safely achieve the most in their daily living and pre-vocational skills practice, residential dormitories have been designed using special hardware, fixtures, and furnishings.

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Our Educational Center Team

All program staff participate in 9 days of HEC orientation training and therapeutic crisis intervention strategies. An additional 40 hours of ASD-specific training includes the following components:

Characteristics of the Spectrum
Basic behavior principles
Reinforcement strategies and how to elicit behavior from children
Behavior management techniques
Discrete Trial Training Group management techniques
Various skill acquisition and prompting procedures