March 16, 2023

Recounting Dr. Stephen R. Anderson’s contributions to The Summit Center

There is a direct connection between CEO Dr. Stephen Anderson and the comprehensive support available in Western New York for children and adults with autism spectrum disorder. The Early Autism Program, Summit Academy Enhanced, and other life-changing programs were established because of his vision and leadership.

Founder Nancy Harris announced her retirement in 1995. Bruce Goldstein, an attorney with expertise in special education and nonprofits, led a national search for her successor. At the time, Dr. Anderson was the Vice President of Child/Adolescent Services at the May Institute in Boston, a renowned provider of autism services. He had earned a PhD in Developmental and Child Psychology from the University of Kansas.

With his academic background and extensive experience, Dr. Anderson stood out from the other candidates. Bruce recounts, “Bringing someone with his credentials to Buffalo was a triumph for the community.” We owe it, in part, to the most Buffalo of reasons: his wife was from Williamsville.

In the 1990s, most healthcare providers and education professionals had a narrow understanding of autism. The signs were often overlooked. It wasn’t until the year 2000 that the CDC began to formally monitor the prevalence of autism through the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network. Eventually, research started to surge in 2001.

Due to the limited public discourse, Dr. Anderson thought he was leaving the autism field behind when he left Boston in 1995. However, as he got to know the students at what was then the Language Development Program, he noticed many exhibited autistic traits. He realized that children were going undiagnosed and, consequently, not receiving the support they needed to learn. This set Summit’s evolution in motion. The agency progressed from serving children with broader speech and hearing disorders to one that specializes in autism.

Dr. Anderson cemented The Summit Center as a leading provider of evidence-based treatment for individuals with autism spectrum disorder. Former board member Warren Gleckel, PhD, shared, “The most important motion I voted for as a board member was to hire Steve Anderson as executive director. Over my 49+ years of serving individuals with disabilities, Steve is one of the most outstanding leaders I’ve ever worked with (and I’ve worked with some highly respected professionals in our field). He was the architect of a truly progressive model for services to individuals with special needs. What a legacy! And he has done so with great humility and ‘menschkeit’ (Yiddish for a person who is admired and trusted because of their sense of ethics and fairness).”

Thank you, Steve. Because of you, countless children and adults have reached new levels of growth and independence.