Patients with autism as well as their families will be offered classes, activities and support services at a new center slated to open by year's end in Garden City.

Plans were unveiled this week for the more than $2.2-million Family Center For Autism, to be located in a renovated building at 1501 Franklin Ave. The center is being created by Life's WORC, a 44-year-old nonprofit agency that aids people with mental retardation and developmental disabilities, and is next door to Life's WORC's headquarters.

When it opens by the end of the year, the 7,500-square-foot facility, to be funded entirely by donations, will provide activities and classes for individuals with autism in all age groups. But it will also provide 60 classes or activities for family members who are caregivers for those with autism and who need a break.

"We're creating a different way of supporting individuals with autism through a family-centric model," said Life's WORC executive director Peter Smergut. "One of the things that we're trying to address is that the family is impacted; it's not just the individual."

One of those anxious for the center to open is Ingrid Hughes of Garden City, whose son Karl is autistic. "For him there will be cooking classes and socialization programs, teen adventure connections. And there will be classes for all ages, so my son, who is 17 and aging out of a lot of programs, will now have a place that he and teenagers like him and adults as they get older can participate."

And for family members, Hughes said, "I will be able to get a massage or take an exercise or yoga class while he's being handled appropriately in a class that suits him."

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