OCA enables individuals and families with autism or other disabilities the opportunity to maximize their abilities through functional, behavioral, social, recreational and vocational programs to live within the community.
This past year OCA has:
OCA's goals for the next 12 months:
OCA's dream list:
1. 50+ acres in Central Florida to develop a village where individuals with autism or other disabilities can work, live and play. (see diagram page)
2. Temporary facility on the western portion of Orange County, where we can offer an additional Adult Vocational Training (AVT) and After School program.
3. The ability to offer a benefits package to new and existing staff in order to compete with other programs and thus have the most highly qualified staff.
4. Assistance in marketing to build community awareness and allow us to reach additional families in need.
5. The capital to build this dream. Simply, the money to develop programs to meet the ever growing need of our Central Florida residents.
In 2008, four women sat in a dugout at a local park with pencils, paper, and a dream for better things to come. They were parents, therapists, and educators of children with autism or other disabilities who recognized that the future for their children and the children of their peers was not one to be excited about. This group of parents and professionals met with the desire for their children to have the same options as their typical peers. Orange County Athletics formed a non-profit organization in 2009. OCA (Orange County Athletics) was started to extend social learning opportunities, therapies, and childcare to local families. OCA was formed to provide summer camps, Saturday events and Special Olympics training in Orange County. It did not take but a few months to recognize that our family’s needs were far greater than sports recreation and childcare. We also realized, some of us for the first time, that one day our kids would grow up to experience additional obstacles and limited options. So in 2011, Silvia Haas was hired as Director of Operations, and OCA expanded its programs to also provide After School and an Adult Vocational Program. In 2012 OCA officially changed the name to OCA: Opportunity, Community, Ability, Inc. and expanded our board of directors to have seven members and one advisor who work together to reach out to the community for support and encouragement. Further, we hired a Director of Services on a part time basis to oversee the clinical development of our programs, train staff, and ensure program quality as expansion increased. In 2013 we hired a Program Director and in 2014, a Marketing Coordinator. In our short time as an organization, we have expanded from 19 families in 2009 to over 325 families currently.
In 1998, my husband and I heard the words “autism” and “one
in 10,000” for the first time. At that
time, we had no idea that our lives would change completely, yet for the
better. Today, the diagnosis of autism is
one in 68. What we quickly became aware
of was the lack of programming for children and adults, like our son Matthew,
who have autism and other disabilities who required more assistance in order to
participate in any type of programming that their typical peers would. That’s
when the founding sisters knew that we had to make a difference not only for
Matthew, but for all of his friends who would come through the doors of OCA.
The experience of being a part of OCA has filled me both
professionally and personally. I not only have the opportunity to learn and
grow with some of the most talented professionals in the greater Orlando, but I
have the chance to help my community improve on a daily basis. Though it has
never been easy, this organization has been growing since the day those women
stepped out of the dugout with a plan. Every individual that is associated with
OCA is focused on building our organization and finding ways to expand our
reach. We are different because we empower our staff and volunteers as much as
we empower our participants. Our participants are awesome individuals that have
the opportunity to teach the members of their community just as much about life
as they can learn from working and playing at OCA. We are a family, and one
that truly takes care of its members.
OCA has found a way to offer low cost services to
individuals whose needs were not currently met. We have interacted with other
agencies, local and abroad, to find things that work and ways to improve what
has already been established. We focus on training so that all staff can offer
the same quality of service, while utilizing each staff member’s individual
talents to bring forth new and better services. OCA focuses on allowing each
person to define who they are, their strengths, weaknesses, and their game plan
to achieve future goals. OCA is a special place for special people to work,
live and play.
This is an exciting time for OCA because of our success and
rapid growth as a therapy provider, the expansion of our summer camp programs,
the advances in our adult vocational training programs, and the planning for
the OCA Village where our clients will one day be able to live, work, and play
in a safe and beneficial environment. When the organization first
started, we saw a need in the community for high quality programs that serve
children and adults with special needs. Since then, the special needs
community has embraced OCA and because of that, the organization continues to
expand and do more every year to serve Central Florida. Ironically this
growth, which I would call our greatest organizational success, has also
provided our biggest challenge. With our staff expanding quickly and the
number of children and adults served in our programs increasing every month, we
have had to make sure we maintain the same high quality of services we have always
As the father of a 16-year-old boy with special needs, a boy
who has benefitted greatly from the high quality of OCA’s programs, I see the
importance of providing the highest quality of care and services for
individuals like my son. Thankfully through the dedication and the care
of our team at OCA, we have continued to provide that same high quality
experience for our clients even as the organization grows quickly.
This organization is founded in and for the Central Florida Community. We do not limit ourselves geographically. As we have stated, it is our goal to be a special place for special needs and we strive to provide access to as many families as possible.
As of current, we provide services to participants in Orange, Lake, Osceola, and Seminole counties. Our programs are located in Orange County with school aged programming near Seminole and Lake County.
OCA strives to be a special place for special needs. More
specifically, we want to service the ever-growing population of children and
adults who require a different learning style for social, recreational, and
Our ultimate goal is to provide a community environment that will allow individuals
to live in varying degrees of independence. For example, if a participant has
the ability to complete self-care and cook simple meals but requires assistance
for grocery shopping, then we will provide training for these skill deficits. In addition, we will monitor their home
environment minimally for safety, while allowing this participant to choose
other services at our facility such as leisure skills and ongoing education. We
may provide 24-hour supervision for those who cannot manage their activities of
daily living or safety, still providing choices for vocational and recreational
opportunities. Both individuals deserve the opportunity to have a comfortable
home with access to community supports, employment opportunities, and leisure
There only a handful of providers across the country that have taken on a
task such as this. We believe in this goal and know it is relevant because the
participants we are aiming to support are our children, neighbors, cousins,
siblings, and friends. We know that this need exists because most of us face
the challenges of the future for our maturing loved ones on a daily basis.
Whether 5 or 25, we want to help families and individuals reach their personal
goals and afford the choices offered to their typically developing peers.
Disability does not write the future, it
Our goals over the next 12 months are moving us straight ahead, in the right
direction. We are working to expand our vocational program by 250% and because
of the growth; we will have to find a larger facility to meet the needs of our
participants and families. In addition, OCA established an early intervention
clinic to meet the demands of the growing population of individuals diagnosed with
autism in the greater Orlando area. That
program services children as young as 18 months at home, in the community and
on campus, and has also helped generate a revenue stream to support operations
of other OCA programs.
This year, OCA launched development efforts and is in the process of
creating a fundraising plan to engage a sustainable stream of philanthropic
income. The Board of Directors will
continue to work closely with the development and administrative team to design
the spatial layout of the OCA Village. The
acquisition of the land allows us to grow exponentially and expand on already
existing services to continue our constant journey to provide high quality, low
cost programming, and ultimately the desires that parents have of wondering
where their child will live and thrive and be accepted for who they are.
Our first and foremost strength is our inner structure. Our staff, from the bottom to the top, all want to be a part or our organization and the future goals we represent. They come early, stay late, volunteer their time on weekends, and form meaningful bonds with our participants. From its inception, OCA has been staffed with professionals trained in a variety of areas to form a team that can provide a multi-disciplinary approach in treatment and education. We have teachers, physical education instructors, behavior analysts, and occupational therapists that make up our management and direct care staff. We train each staff person in Positive Behavior Supports to ensure that all members of our staff use a uniform curriculum in interactions and training opportunities with our consumers.
Next in our rank is our volunteers. Our program and uniqueness are made effective by the use of our typical peers to help run our program and provide the meaningful learning opportunities not available in a clinical setting. Our volunteers are community members, typically school age or college students, seeking to enrich their lives by helping others. They bring an energy and skill set that is not possible to create in training without inner desire and a strong sense of empathy. These children and young adults are amazing.
Our staff and volunteers come with full support of the board, which is a collection of individuals who have believed in and supported OCA since its inception. Our board members are parents, educators, and community supports that come to meetings, events, fundraisers, and celebrations to constantly share their encouragement. They use their connections in our geographical area to bring us supporters and educate the community at large on the work we are doing. These community supports include business members, school system supports, and a variety of services that allow OCA to spread our reach and grow. These supporters assist in providing services, seeking potential land development, donating time or money, and sharing information in our community.
OCA’s success is often simply measured by the feedback we receive from our families. We have offered surveys in the past to continue to stay abreast of the ongoing needs of our population, while ensuring that we are satisfying the needs of our current clientele. We continue to improve this ongoing feedback process to identify areas of strength and areas of needed growth.
Further, utilizing our business software we examine the data of cost versus revenue. As of current, our income has grown at a rate slightly higher than that of our expenses. We utilize a simple accounting software to allow us to compare the cash flow of the previous year to identify mistakes and alter our practices for the future.
On a programmatic level, we set goals for our individual programs. The after-school and camp programs are monitored on percentage of growth. As of current, we are able to serve 100+ families with a goal of 150. In the adult day training program, we work as an interdisciplinary team to establish quarterly goals and meet the corresponding quarter to monitor growth and assess training strategies. As we are based on Applied Behavior Analysis, we hold data to a high regard and utilize solid measures to determine ongoing growth.
When the founding sisters started brainstorming the development of OCA, we had a list a mile long of things we would accomplish in our first 3, 5, and 10 years. Though that list has been altered from time to time, the overall purpose of getting open and meeting the needs of the families that we had worked with through Special Olympics over the years has been met. We have found a temporary facility, offered an after-school program to serve schools in a 15 mile radius, provided an Adult Day Training Program, developed a network of staff to provide respite services and behavioral services in home for our consumers, established an ongoing social skills group to meet on weekends, and continued the work we cherish with Special Olympics. We are so proud of our accomplishments and know that our work only continues to grow. Every increase in reach moves us directly toward our goal of services across the life span for the special needs population in our area.
Our current drive is focused on seeking additional services that can be provided in our current space, with the close second goal focusing on finding a new space to continue growth. We are holding two annual fundraisers a year specifically focused on growing our programs. Our next three steps will be expanding our adult day training program to service 25 adults, expanding our respite program to include overnight services, and expanding our social skills training groups to an out-of-town overnight activity. The latter two will be accomplished in the next 6 months. Each step to expansion is something to celebrate and utilize for continued growth.
OCA offers a quality after school program that
enhances children’s emotional and physical well-being. Children will be engaged
in daily physical activities, and work on social and emotional skills.
We offer skilled childcare/adult care to provide
a break for caregivers. All staff are trained in Positive Behavior
Supports and thus this is no ordinary babysitting.
OCA offers summer day camp and school break camps
when school is not in session. Typical peers provide age appropriate
modeling in social skills training, language development and gross and fine
OCA is the largest registered
training program with Special Olympics Orange County and participates in year
The biggest challenge for our program is that we do not have enough resources
to serve all the participants who need OCA services. We have quickly
outgrown our current space, and have not found a facility that will meet our
current and future programming demands.
Additionally, maintaining affordable services is a consistent challenge. OCA wants to be unique by providing opportunities
within the community that provide a more typical experience for individuals
with special needs. Many families face
financial hardship when faced with caring for a loved one with a
disability. Research has shown us that
families will have to save up to $2.5 million in order to sustain their child’s
life through a normal life expectancy. So many families we encounter are on a daunting wait list for funding
support through the Med Waiver program (Medicaid program) and therefore, will
have to cover programming costs out of pocket. For example, clients participating in the adult vocational training
program would have to pay up to $13,000 a year for full-time program support,
so that parents can still maintain their job and their homes. As we move forward, OCA seeks community support
and investment in our participants and our programs to give these individuals
the same opportunities as their peers.
The experience of being a part of OCA has filled me both professionally and personally. I not only have the opportunity to learn and grow with some of the most talented professionals in the greater Orlando, but I have the chance to help my community improve on a daily basis. Though it has never been easy, this organization has been growing since the day those women stepped out of the dugout with a plan. Every individual that is associated with OCA is focused on building our organization and finding ways to expand our reach. We are different because we empower our staff and volunteers as much as we empower our clients. Our clients are awesome individuals that have the opportunity to teach the members of their community just as much about life as they can learn from working and playing at OCA. We are a family, and one that truly takes care of its members.
OCA has found a way to offer low cost services to individuals whose needs were not currently met. We have interacted with other agencies, local and abroad, to find things that work and ways to improve what has already been established. We focus on training so that all staff can offer the same quality of service, while utilizing each staff member’s individual talents to bring forth new and better services. OCA focuses on allowing each person to define who they are, their strengths, weaknesses, and their game plan to achieve future goals. OCA is a special place for special people to live, work, and play.
Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts
UCF Center for Autism and Related Disabilities
Princeton House Charter School
Morning Star School
Special Olympics Orange County
Special Olympics Florida
Indirect Public Support HelpIndirect public support represents revenue received through solicitation campaigns. This includes funding United Way and other federated fundraising organizations, but does not include donor designated contributions.
Earned Revenue HelpEarned revenue represents income generated in direct exchange for a product or service.Earned income includes income from government contracts.
Central Florida Foundation 800 N Magnolia AvenueSuite 1200 Orlando, FL 32803 p. 407.872.3050 f. 407.425.2990