Graduation day for autistic students

August 11, 2011 1:53:48 PM PDT
Zachary is getting his cap and gown. He and 20 other students are graduating from preschool today. All of the children are all battling autism, and each and every one of them is going to main-stream school this fall.

They have all been students here at the Association for Metro Area Autistic Children in Manhattan.

AMAC, as they call it, is a year-round school for children age two and a half to 21-years-old, but when high functioning kids like these are ready, they leave.

"They're going to less restrictive settings they've all made so much progress they're all going into the mainstream so we're so happy and thrilled," said principal Felicia Richgat.

The curriculum at AMAC is based on the Applied Behavior Analysis or ABA method. It's a reward-based program that's been proven to change behavior, helping autistic children learn to communicate, develop skills and become productive members of society.

Naresh Cintron, 18, is an example of success. He just graduated from AMAC last month and is the first to receive a Regent's Diploma.

"You slowly find yourself in the world, and this school's no different," said Naresh.

He's off to Lehman College next year, with plans to major in psychology.

"I've always had an interest in the human mind so why not turn it into a career?" he said.

And for the pre-school graduates, this is just the beginning. The next stop is kindergarten. Donovan's parents say they couldn't be more proud.

"Since he's arrived, he's absolutely flourished," said father Mike Gallaway.

For more information on AMAC, go to