What We Do
The ACRES Project (Adults Creating Residential & Employment Solutions) is a a 501(c)3 non-profit located in the heart of Central Pennsylvania.
Our unique team consists of neurodivergent people, educators, parents, and community members working together to help neurodivergent and autistic adults build a foundation for a productive, independent life. By fostering social, vocational, and self-advocacy skills, ACRES' innovative programs help individuals build confidence, develop practical life skills, increase social capacity, and optimize their potential.
Everybody has a talent. The ACRES Project is here to turn the passions and skills of neurodivergent adults into meaningful opportunities to live, thrive, and achieve their dreams.
Why We're Here
Although commonly viewed as a childhood disorder, autism is a lifelong diagnosis. The CDC estimates that 1 in 44 American children have an autism spectrum disorder, and each of those kids will soon become an adult with autism. But for autistic youth and their families, the transition to adulthood is often a frightening time of uncertainty.
Unlike other disabilities, many of the vital supports that autistic people rely on disappear at the age of 21, when a person "ages out" of services provided by public schools. The few programs designed for adults with autism often have long waiting lists, are unaffordable, or cannot provide the specific help that an individual needs. And because autism and other neurodivergent conditions are often invisible, people who "don't look autistic" to others, or who lack a medical diagnosis, often have their needs and challenges overlooked completely. With no support and nowhere to turn, adults on the autism spectrum frequently suffer from isolation and unemployment.
Although 61% of adults with autism want to hold a job, 85% are unemployed, even with a college degree. This is the lowest employment rate of any disability group. More than half of young adults on the autism spectrum report that they have not met with a friend over the past year. And although 78% of adults with autism wish to live independently, 90% rely on a parent or guardian or lack independent living options. The ACRES Project is working to create those options.
In 2014, retired special education teacher Bella Bregar collaborated with teachers, parents, and Autistic community members to create The ACRES Project, a community-funded nonprofit working to provide adults with autism and other neurodivergencies with accessible structure and support to help them achieve their goals and build a foundation for a productive, happy life.
What We Do
From our two-acre rural property in State College, PA, The ACRES Project works to connect neurodivergent and autistic adults to themselves, to each other, and to their community. With the assistance of experienced staff and Penn State interns, ACRES hosts a variety of programs, individualized supports, and social gatherings, most of which are available at low or no cost to participants. A majority of our staff members have autism or are neurodivergent, allowing us to create programs and solutions uniquely designed by and for adults with all kinds of minds.
In 2019, a Centre Foundation grant funded the construction of an aquaponics greenhouse at The ACRES Project. This sustainable indoor system grows produce and fish together, providing individuals with opportunities for horticultural therapy, job skills training, and community outreach. People with creative aspirations can find employment and socialization through ACRES Artisans, an entrepreneurial program where artists with autism craft handmade soaps, embroidery, and other products to sell at local craft markets and online. Adult-run social groups at ACRES and Penn State provide autistic and neurodivergent adults and college students with opportunities to discover a supportive, neurodiverse community of peers and make lasting friendships.
In addition to its own programs, ACRES is also a licensed service provider through Pennsylvania's Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR), a state-funded program providing support to help individuals with disabilities find and maintain employment at local workplaces.
Neurodivergent and autistic people have a lot to offer. With their input and the support of the wider community, The ACRES Project is always developing new ways to make the Centre Region more accessible to all kinds of minds!
What We Believe
- We believe that autism is not a disease to be treated or cured.
- We believe that each person is an individual with their own unique strengths, challenges, and goals for the future.
- We believe in shaping our programs around people, not fitting people into programs.
- We believe that nobody knows what a person needs more than the person themselves.
- We believe in creating programs designed by and for neurodivergent and autistic adults.