Educational Institutions


Because the “creatively wired and socially challenged” should not have to go it alone

aka The Fresh Start School

Canton, CT


Helping children and young adults with autism spectrum disorders achieve their full potential.

Ruling Year


Executive Director, Founder

Donna Swanson

Associate Director, Founder

Fred Evans

Main Address

PO Box 452

Canton, CT 06019 USA

Formerly Known As



autism spectrum disorder, autism, asperger's, treatment, speciall education, connecticut





Cause Area (NTEE Code)

Specialized Education Institutions/Schools for Visually or Hearing Impaired, Learning Disabled (B28)

Mental Health Treatment (F30)

Group Home, Residential Treatment Facility - Mental Health Related (F33)

IRS Filing Requirement

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Social Media

Programs + Results

What we aim to solve

FOCUS Center for Autism is committed to providing a continuum of care that addresses the academic, clinical, supportive housing, and social learning needs of children, young adults and their families impacted by autism.

Our Sustainable Development Goals

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.


Our programs

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

The Fresh Start School

Autism Services

Residential Programs

Support Services

Consultative Services & Trainings

Where we work

Charting Impact

Five powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What is the organization aiming to accomplish?

What are the organization's key strategies for making this happen?

What are the organization's capabilities for doing this?

How will they know if they are making progress?

What have they accomplished so far and what's next?

FOCUS Center for Autism has been providing services as a non-profit to the Connecticut autism community for 20 years. We began as a small recreational/after school program for children and adolescents that sought to bring services to an underserved population. Since then we have developed a continuum of care for children, young adults and families that have been impacted by autism. Our primary goals include: · Providing the best educational experience possible for children and adolescent ages 10-21 in our state approved Fresh Start School. · We are always seeking new ways to increase the supportive housing services we provide for young adults with ASD. This population has very few options once they age out of services at age 21. · To provide effective clinical and diagnostic services for individuals and families through our Autism Services Program. · To expand and develop our After School Program. · Continue to offer Support Services to our adolescents, young adults and families who might not have these opportunities otherwise.

FOCUS Center for Autism is committed to maintaining and developing strategies that offer the best possible services to the autism community. Primary strategies include: · Our Fresh Start School will offer an educational experience that not only addresses individual academic goals but their clinical, behavioral and social learning goals as well. This state approved program will address each child’s IEP goals that may also include transition programing. · The Fresh Start School will maintain its sense of community and will provide a program that offers each child a place to belong, learn and succeed. · Our young adult supportive housing will continue to provide affordable housing to young adults with ASD and co-morbid physical and mental health issues. Support services attached to this program include case management, on-site clinical services and 24 hr staffing. We continue to also develop our scattered site supportive housing program which provides a lesser level of support to those young adults living more independently. · Our adolescent Level II Therapeutic Group Home provides intensive programming for adolescents with ASD and histories of trauma and abuse. These complex children often have a myriad of issues to confront before they are able to move on to more independent living at age 21. The program will continue to address the social, emotional, clinical, medical, ADL, and independent living needs these children have. · Our Autism Services program will continue to develop our clinical program that includes individual and family therapy, assessments and diagnostic services. · Our After School Program will continue to offer after school programs for children and adolescents in need of a supportive community of likeminded peers. · Our Support Services Program will continue to offer and develop new programs that address the needs of the autism community. These services are all offered at minimal fees and include a number of young adult social clubs, parent support groups and classes including yoga, cooking and robotics. · Our Autism Spectrum Unplugged Panel has brought hope and inspiration to thousands of people impacted by autism. The panel is composed of a rotating group of current student and, residents as well as FOCUS alumni and young adults. The panel presents statewide to schools, state organizations, service providers and support groups. The members speak to a life lived with autism, the many challenges they face, what makes them unique and to what strategies have worked or not worked. It is an inspiring event. · FOCUS Center for Autism will continue to develop new strategies that will expand our continuum of care for children and families confronted with ASD.

FOCUS Center for Autism is a well-established organization with a 20 year history in delivering services to the CT autism community. We have a well-defined administrative structure that is capable of handling all administrative, financial, technological and human resource challenges. Our experienced staff that include teachers, program directors, clinicians and direct care staff are well trained and have appropriate certifications and licensure appropriate for their position. Our programs are well staffed and meet all state guidelines for staff-client ratios. All staff must meet training requirements prior to their assuming their position. All licensed and certified staff are eligible for continuing education including trainings, workshops and other forms of staff development. All staff are also eligible for in-house trainings and on-line programs. The FOCUS Board of Directors assumes the fiscal, fiduciary and governance responsibilities of the organization. The board meets monthly. All individual academic, clinical, behavioral and social learning goals and progress are tracked by teachers, clinicians and program directors. All appropriate record keeping is performed and all state guidelines are met as they apply differently to each program. Because we operate two state funded programs we are required by law to have the yearly Yellow Book audit. The results of these audits have always been favorable. Our two state residential programs accept extremely complex clients. Our staff must be experienced and capable if they are to be able to help our residents meet their goals and eventually move on to more independent living. These are both intensely clinical programs with individually tailored levels of support

Progress at FOCUS is measured by the levels of success we can see in each student and resident. All academic, clinical, behavioral and social learning goals are tracked and evaluated on an on-going basis. Record keeping is important and documentation is critical. All students and residents are also encouraged to involve their parents/guardians in goal setting and evaluation when applicable. Progress for the organization is determined by our ability to continue to provide services to the CT autism community. Meeting all state educational, DMHAS, and DCF guidelines for our programs keep us in good standing. As we work to expand our continuum of care for children and young adults with ASD our ability to develop and implement new programs is always a way to help us measure progress. The autism community, especially the young adults, is still an underserved and underfunded group. Parents are at their wits end for social opportunities and supports for their ASD young adult. We always feel we are moving the rock a llittle bit uphill when we are able to offer a new social group or speciality group. These programs are never funded and always require creative funding measures.

As noted above FOCUS Center for Autism has managed to provide services to the CT autism community for 20 years. Over the years we have been able to serve close to 2000 children, young adults and families from over 60 CT towns. Our clinical work has spanned these 20 years and our educational and, residential programs have all been in existence for many years. Our residential programs especially are unique one of a kind programs. These programs serve adolescents and young adults who also have difficult histories and co-morbid conditions in addition to their ASD. We believe these are significant accomplishments. The Fresh Start School, now in its fourth year, was preceded by an educational program we ran during the day through our then licensed Extended Day Treatment Program. This program picked up children that were not attending their regular schools due to their intense clinical and social learning needs. For many years this rogue program was the only educational experience these children were able to have. It is helping those children who have difficulty attending traditional school settings that is today the driving force behind our Fresh Start School Program. Our clinical services continue through our Autism Services Program. This program has gone through major funding changes and is developing into a new program that still highlights our clinical expertise. Our Support Services Program now has a designated paid Support Service Coordinator overseeing all services. These services are vital to the young adults and parents/guardians of our FOCUS community. Our continuum of care moves along steadily as we are always looking to find ways to expand and develop our services. We are first and foremost a service organization.

External Reviews



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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Board Leadership Practices

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section, which enables organizations and donors to transparently share information about essential board leadership practices.

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization


Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations?



Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year?



Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year?



Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership?



Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years?