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 people with autism, educators, parents, and community members working together to help adults with autism 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 adults with autism into meaningful opportunities for individuals to live, thrive, and achieve their dreams.


Why We're Here


Autism is a lifelong diagnosis. Although commonly viewed as a childhood disorder, kids with autism soon become teenagers, adults, and seniors with autism. It's estimated that 50,000 Americans with autism will enter adulthood each decade. These adults are one of the most overlooked and underserved populations in America. 

Although school districts provide many services for children with an autism spectrum disorder, these services disappear at the age of 21, when individuals are no longer eligible for the vital supports which they and their families have relied on since childhood. The few programs that do exist for adults with autism often have long waiting lists, prerequisites, or are unable to provide the specific help that an individual needs. With no support and nowhere to turn, adults with autism are at greatly increased risk of isolation, loneliness, unemployment, and overall lack of purpose.

Puzzlefacts

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.

Who We Are

Established in July 2014, The ACRES Project, Inc. is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization with a mission to foster independence, self-advocacy, social opportunities, and work/life skills for adults with autism.The project was spearheaded by Bella Bregar, a retired special education teacher with a passion for helping individuals with autism thrive. Bella has helped countless students through high school over her 38 years as a teacher, and shares the hopes and concerns that many parents express for the future of their child with autism. Noticing that many of her former students were struggling to graduate college, make friends, or find jobs after graduation, Bregar, along with Cathy Prosek, founded the ACRES Project to fill in the gap in services and provide adults with autism with the structure and support they need to achieve their goals.

In early 2017, The ACRES Project acquired a lease on a rural, two-acre property at 2400 Bernel Road, less than five miles away from Penn State's University Park campus. The spacious house accommodates a wide variety of programs, including life skills classes, entrepreneurial programs, and social groups. These programs are run by caring, qualified staff and many are available at low to no cost to participants to ensure accessibility.

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 adults with autism, for adults with autism.

What We Do

The ACRES Project works to connect people with autism 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 thanks to generous community support. Over half of The ACRES Project's paid staff have an autism diagnosis themselves, allowing us to create programs truly by and for adults with autism. And as a smaller, independent nonprofit, ACRES is able to quickly develop new programs and supports to meet the unique needs of our community as they arise.

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.

In addition to its own programs, ACRES is also a licensed service provider through Pennsylvania's Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR), a state-funded initiative that provides one-on-one support to help individuals with disabilities find and maintain employment at local workplaces.  

People with autism 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 for everyone!