The initiative marks the culmination of efforts by Dutchess County leadership to identify and implement plans to become supportive of people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and other special needs and abilities (OSNA).

Staatsburg, New York/Poughkeepsie, New York… Anderson Center for Autism announced today that it has designated Dutchess County an Autism Supportive County – making it the first of its kind in New York State to be granted such recognition. Criteria to be named an Autism Supportive County includes the ability to demonstrate the commitment to Anderson’s mission of optimizing the quality of life for people with Autism across areas such as education, infrastructure, and sustainability.

Dutchess County’s work was first formalized when County Executive Marcus Molinaro announced its ThinkDIFFERENTLY initiative, at which point a committee was formed to explore possible services and programs in this area. A Deputy Commissioner for Special Needs position was then created in 2016 to develop and implement a plan of action. Since its inception, ThinkDIFFERENTLY has expanded opportunities for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and other special needs and abilities (OSNA) through a wide range of activities throughout the County. 

Said Patrick Paul, CEO/Executive Director, Anderson Center for Autism, “We applaud Dutchess County leadership and all who’ve participated in this inspiring collective effort to maximize potential for people with special needs. Not only has our area become more inclusive, but the robust opportunities presented by ThinkDIFFERENTLY have truly enriched quality of life for all of us. There are countless examples of the good work that has shaped this movement, and all of us at Anderson hope that this will set the stage for Counties nationwide.”

Examples of Dutchess County’s efforts include educational opportunities for residents, businesses, and organizations to receive Autism training (which County officials and departments have likewise completed). County infrastructure is now complete with systems and procedures that expand education, transportation, recreation, healthcare, travel, social, and employment opportunities for those with ASD and OSNA. In addition, ThinkDIFFERENTLY Annual Conferences, First Responder Trainings, and special needs picnics and films have been hosted by the County over recent years. Collaborations with other organizations have also taken shape, such as the one with SUNY Dutchess which resulted in the launch of a Think Ahead program, and another with Dutchess Tourism, with whom the Think Dutchess program was developed. 

Said Paul, “Today, there are robust opportunities that exist here in Dutchess County for people with ASD and OSNA, all of which are very much aligned with Anderson’s mission of optimizing the quality of life for people with autism. We are extremely grateful to work in a County so deeply devoted to the same cause.” 

To receive Autism Supportive County designation from Anderson Center for Autism, Dutchess County had to meet certain criteria that illustrated a comprehensive effort to enhance life for people with ASD and OSNA. The County demonstrated that it had earned the honor through the aforementioned examples in the areas of education, inclusion, infrastructure, and sustainability.

Dutchess County Honored as First-of-its-Kind Autism Supportive CountyDutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro said, “So many individuals and organizations have answered the call to ‘ThinkDIFFERENTLY’ – opening their hearts and minds about how they interact with neighbors challenged with developmental disabilities. Seeing how warmly people have embraced our ‘ThinkDIFFERENTLY’ message, here in Dutchess County and across New York State and even the nation, is truly one of my proudest accomplishments in all of my years of public service.”

Noted Kathleen Marshall, director of program services at Anderson, “Dutchess County has exceeded any expectations – and here at Anderson, we’ve been able to do so much more because of this partnership. Thanks to grant funding made available through Dutchess County, our Anderson Consulting team has had the privilege of training over 90 businesses who have subsequently become Autism Supportive EnvironmentsSM. When you think about all of the people those trainings will ultimately touch, it’s heartwarming.”

Added Dr. Tina Marie Covington, Chief Operating Officer at Anderson, “It is often the case that people with Autism and their families live extremely isolated lives; communities typically don’t have the knowledge or the tools to support them. If every county across the country and beyond followed the lead of Dutchess and our mid-Hudson Valley region, the impact would be extraordinary – not just for those with special needs, but for all of us who benefit from knowing them.”

For more information about Anderson Center for Autism, visit For more information about Dutchess County’s ThinkDIFFERENTLY initiative, visit,

About Anderson Center for Autism

Our mission at Anderson Center for Autism is to optimize the quality of life for people with autism.