The mission of the Autism Treatment Center (ATC) is to assist people with autism and related disorders throughout their lives as they learn, play, work and live in the community. ATC is a private, nonprofit, 501(c)(3) corporation providing its services 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Services include residential, educational, therapeutic, adult programs and research.
ATC was established in Dallas in 1976 when autism was still a largely mysterious developmental disorder. In fact, it was such a rarity that 1 in 10,000 children were diagnosed with autism. There was little known about autism and next to no treatment or therapies being offered. A small group of six parents – all with children with autism who “aged-out” of their treatment program and were no longer eligible to receive their services – came together to find a solution. Their children were older now, but were no less autistic. As with many innovations, the Center was born out of necessity.
Most of the parents involved at the beginning served on the Board of Directors for many years, and five of the six children are still at ATC today. They are among the oldest men and women in our program.
In 1978, a group of parents learned about the Dallas program and a second Center was opened in San Antonio.
The needs were great, and it was soon apparent that additional programs and services were necessary. ATC opened a group home in Dallas where men and women with autism would have a safe and comfortable environment to live and develop life-skills. Next, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) certified educational program began, serving 18 children; the Adult Services program was developed; 6 more group homes were opened in Dallas; and land was purchased as the site of the future Autism Treatment Center Dallas main building. Each program that was developed in Dallas was replicated at the Center in San Antonio.
ATC has a long history of parents advocating for their children and helping to shape its growth. Each program developed addresses a specific need for the children and adults needing our services. When asked about the history of the Autism Treatment Center, Executive Director, Anna Hundley said, “Parents are the backbone and were the driving force behind ATC.”