The North Shore Autism Circle will honor Debora Thivierge, founder and executive director of the ELIJA School, Foundation and Farm, at the 14th Annual Woodbury Ball for Autism on Thursday, April 20. Thivierge, a resident of Roslyn and a board certified assistant behavior analyst, has been a visionary, advocate and leader in the autism community on Long Island for more than 16 years.
A mother of an 18-year-old son with autism, Thivierge founded the ELIJA Foundation in 2002, which provides families and professionals with educational opportunities that focus on improving programs and services for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). In 2006 she opened the ELIJA School in Levittown, an individualized 12-month educational and treatment program that currently serves more than 30 school-aged children and young adults with ASD.
Thivierge embarked on a new mission in 2016 when ELIJA purchased six-acres of a farm in South Huntington to start ELIJA Farm. ELIJA Farm offers a community supported agriculture (CSA) program where differently-abled children and adults play a role in the productivity of the farm. Thivierge saw the farm as a unique opportunity to build a sustainable future for transitioning adults with autism who age out of traditional school programs at 21 and are faced with a shortage of adult-focused services. Many of these individuals still need intensive instruction and support to develop essential work and life skills, and the availability of quality programs is often limited.
An ongoing capital campaign for ELIJA will enable the acquisition of the second four-acre parcel on the grounds of the farm, construction of a state-of-the-art greenhouse, and conversion of the property’s barn into a learning annex and workspace. Ultimately, it is the mission of ELIJA Farm to offer farm-based learning and vocational programming for transitioning adults with autism and develop a creative residential option for these individuals to live in a safe and supported community.
—The ELIJA School