I have been involved in the Giant Steps school in many ways for many years. First, as a parent of a young adult on the autism spectrum. My son, Jamie, attended Giant Steps school for over five years. This was the one school where he excelled, and to this day he wants to return to the program. Secondly, as a volunteer and lastly as a current board member for Giant Steps.

The accusations of poor or disrespectful behavior by Giant Steps staff toward the surrounding neighborhood come as a complete surprise. With my intimate involvement in the school, there would have been many opportunities for this to have been brought forward. I have never witnessed any such activity, and I am there at all different times of the day and night. Our school has nothing but respect for the community for which it is school is housed.

There is a great need for adult programming for individuals on the autism spectrum throughout Connecticut, but especially in Fairfield County. As it is, now my son lives in Bridgeport and travels daily to Naugatuck for work daily. I chose his current program because it provides meaningful work for him. This is what Next Steps is trying to do also: provide a safe and nurturing environment for individuals to develop work skills that can be translated into other work environments.

It is unfortunate that individuals who live in the neighborhood surrounding Giant Steps can't sit down with the administration and Kathy Roberts to come up with some agreeable terms. Individuals with autism are not going to "go away.” Like any parent, we want the best for our children, no matter how old they are.

Jill Ely