April is World Autism Month. In the Hudson Valley, the staff at the Anderson Center for Autism have celebrated those who live with autism for decades.

And in such a difficult time, Anthony Wynter says the impact of their work is even greater. He’s a teaching assistant here, working with 16- to 18-year-olds.

"It is very hard for them to understand what is going on in COVID. They’re not used to wearing masks everyday. They’re not used to us wearing masks," said Wynter.

What You Need To Know

  • The Anderson Center for Autism was founded in 1923, for students with special needs

  • The center became dedicated to serving those with autism in 2006

  • Located in Staatsburg, the center has more than 250 students across its adult and children-focused programming

But he finds such joy working with his students.

"When I come in, it's a new scenery, something new every single day. And the fact that you’re making memories with these kids," he said, keeps him coming back.

He said COVID-19 has reinforced, for him, the need to remain in this job for the long haul.

"I’ve been through difficult times before with my grandfather being sick. No matter what happens, anything in the world can happen; you always have to be that strong person to help someone who is a little less fortunate than us," he said.

The school has a little more than 250 students across its children and adult programs. For Ed Hussey, the Anderson Center made the difference his son, Joseph, so desperately needed.

"He’s come a long, long way. When he first came, he had some severe behavior issues. He’s non-verbal. It was very, very difficult," said Hussey.

But with 15 years of work, Joey, as he’s affectionately called, has made remarkable improvements.

"I’m so indebted to Anderson for what they’ve done for Joey, and it’s really given him a quality of life," he said.

The staff at the center has one message: Take a moment to be kind to families navigating autism.

"What that family probably needs is a smile, something comforting, maybe an offer to help if they need it. And also the opportunity to just have space and not be judged," said Eliza Bozenski, chief development officer at the Anderson Foundation for Autism.

And Hussey knows that kindness very well.

"They really are heroes. And I thank God for them. I don’t know what we would’ve done without them. We couldn’t survive," he said.