Community Connection: Yampa Valley Autism’s mission is symbolized in butterfly logo |

Community Connection: Yampa Valley Autism’s mission is symbolized in butterfly logo

Lisa Lorenz
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Why the butterfly logo? What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a butterfly? Uniqueness? Beauty? Transformation? Taking flight? Those very things are at the heart of what Yampa Valley Autism is all about and how the multicolored butterfly came to represent YVA:

• Each child with special needs is unique, and the differences are beautiful even when it’s challenging.

• YVA transforms the lives of our kids with special needs and gives them the tools and ability to take flight to realize the dreams they have planned for life as adults.

• The primary colors represent diversity and how diverse thinking improves our society.

• The puzzle piece is an internationally recognized symbol of autism spectrum disorders and represents the challenge of finding the best way to meet the needs of our kids with special needs.

But we are more than autism. About half of the children, youth and young adults involved with YVA have learning differences other than autism, because our programming also benefits those at-risk students with other special needs and abilities.

At a glance

MISSION — Yampa Valley Autism provides resources and direct services to children, and youth with developmental disabilities or autism to cultivate abilities and maximize adult quality of life.

VISION — We envision healthy communities in the Yampa Valley where all people are valued and accepted.

OUR COMMITMENT — To provide specialized therapies, family support services, training, education, public awareness, collaboration and advocacy.

Yampa Valley Autism has four programs:

Therapies: Ages 2 to 21, specialized intensive therapies that target functional behavior and social understanding and function with ABA behavior therapy and social cognition therapy.

Community Cultivation: Ages 11 to 21, vocational foundation skills, social function skills and academic goals delivered through a community gardening business model. Students plan, grow, harvest and sell produce to local markets including Main Street Steamboat Farmers Market and Ag Alliance Coop.

STRIDES Transition: Ages 18 to 21, public education focusing on adult life skills such as vocational training, job insertion and support, social and community connections, personal health and life skills to maximize self-sufficiency and independence by the age of 21.

Support Services: Support for children participating in community programs with peers, advocacy, parent groups, sibling support groups, respite, provider education, community collaborations and public awareness.

Our community’s current focus and dialogue surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion also embraces people who are differently-abled. Let’s make an effort to encourage acceptance, inclusion and true appreciation of the unique aspects of our diverse thinkers and get one step closer to a society where those with differences are truly valued for their unique talents and gifts.

The task as parents, educators, community members and employers is to help unlock the unique gifts within the diverse brain and find a way to harness and support the different perspectives. “Neurodiversity” is responsible for abilities and talents that contribute and add value to our communities, so take the opportunity to be open to new friendships, focus on their abilities and strengths, and you’ll be rewarded with an interesting and intriguing perspective on life.

All YVA programs and services are funded by donations, grants, service fees and fundraising. Please consider committing to YVA’s kids with your donations on Colorado Gives Day, Dec. 8. Make a difference; transform a life.

YVA is a 501(c)(3) 20-8317094. For more information, visit our website at

Lisa Lorenz is executive director and a founding member of Yampa Valley Autism since 2002. She was previously a 20-year educator at Steamboat Springs Middle School, a neuroscience research scientist at Colorado State University and is a parent of an amazing adult son with autism spectrum disorder. She has lived in Steamboat Springs for more than 30 years.


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