Since 1967, Benhaven has thrived by responding to emerging community needs and opportunities. Our vision for Benhaven's continued success is grounded in our commitment to the current and emerging best practices in the field of autism.
Benhaven is founded by Amy Ladin Lettick, an educator and mother of a boy, Ben, who has the classic characteristics of autism. As Mrs. Lettick begins to find some approaches that help Ben learn, she realizes that no school in Connecticut can meet his needs – so she decides to start one. Recruiting the help of some friends and relatives, Mrs. Lettick puts together a Board of Directors, finds a small building suitable for a school, and starts Benhaven with three students.
Connecticut’s state government adopts a law that entitles all children and adolescents, regardless of the severity of their disabilities, to a free public education. A similar entitlement which provides extra special education funding is adopted by the federal government shortly after.
With the new funding in place, Benhaven (now with 14 students and a professional staff) receives many referrals for children and adolescents with significant special needs who previously had not had an appropriate school program.
With a grant from the Connecticut State Department of Education, Benhaven starts a pre-vocational program for older students. Soon after, this program is split into two separate groups – a pre-vocational group and a vocational group. Several in-house business enterprises are also developed – a small printing press produces embossed stationary and memo pads, while several machines make pins for political and advertising campaigns. Several students also work at a nearby greenhouse.
To care for several of the students who are now teenagers, Benhaven develops plans for a residential program and purchases 35 acres of land on the North Haven-East Haven town line. The first group home opens in December with three residents.
Mrs. Lettick secures a mortgage to purchase the building of a small private preparatory school that had recently closed. The new school has a gymnasium and playground, as well as enough classroom, office, and meeting space for the school to increase in size to 35 students.
A second group home for five opens.
Amy Lettick is awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters by Yale University. Benhaven develops an employment program for adults, with graduates of Benhaven’s school as the first program participants. This program will later expand and include other adults with severe autism.
Benhaven develops an unofficial affiliation with the Yale Child Study Center through its Director, Dr. Donald Cohen. The affiliation, now contractual, continues to this day, allowing Benhaven access to distinguished professionals in the field and some of the newest research being done at Yale. The Child Study Center provides psychiatric coverage for most of the residents of homes managed or supported by Benhaven.
Benhaven participates in a state-of-the-art training program commissioned by what is now the Autism Society of America. The training program, created and conducted by consultants, includes intensive training for Benhaven's leadership, some of whom are mentored to assume the role of trainers for the remainder of Benhaven’s program staff.
Following the training program, Benhaven begins to emphasize non-aversive, positive behavioral support as well as other cutting-edge approaches such as active teaching, functional assessment of problem behavior, and discrete trial learning.
Amy Lettick announces her retirement and is succeedeed by Larry Wood, a long-time Benhaven employee.
Benhaven adopts person-centered approaches to program planning, evaluation, and improvement – a major step forward in helping people with autism become prepared for positive future lifestyles.
Benhaven starts its Shared Living Program as an alternative to group home living, enabling some individuals with autism to live with families in community settings.
Benhaven contracts with a consulting group to help improve its work services for adults. Plans are developed to convert the workshop setting to community-based employment, and it is decided to gradually reduce the size of the adult vocation programuntil employment support is provided only to those also receiving residential support.
Officials of Connecticut’s Department of Mental Retardation (now Department of Developmental Services) approach Benhaven about a grant to start a program that would train people to provide respite for families of children with disabilities. The program, today called the Individual and Family Support Program, begins with 10 families and now serves more than 60 families.
Benhaven’s own consulting group, the Benhaven Learning Network, is established, growing out of requests from the teaching staff of public schools for technical assistance and consultation from Benhaven staff.
Benhaven is invited to participate in a business plan competition for non-profit agencies conducted by the Yale University School of Management. Benhaven wins a $25,000 award in the contest for their submission of a business plan for the consulting group.
Thanks to recognition following the contest, Benhaven is nominated for and chosen as one of the 20 top entrepreneurial non-profits in the country by Fast Company magazine.
Benhaven purchases a building in Wallingford to serve as the permanent home of Benhaven School.
Benhaven constructs a building for a new school, also in Wallingford. This houses Benhaven Academy, the Benhaven Learning Network and the Social Learning Center at Benhaven.
Larry Wood retires after serving as the Executive Director for almost thirty years. The Senior Management Tem established the Larry Wood Scholarship as a tribute to Larry’s significant contributions to Benhaven and his belief in the importance of direct support professionals who impact the quality of program participants’ lives. Each year a front line staff is selected to win the award. The award provides funding for the staff to attend a national or state conference on autism.
Kathryn du Pree joined Benhaven as the Executive Director.
Children’s Behavioral Services (CBS) is the newest program at Benhaven. Initiated in May 2017, the program provides home and community based Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Assessment and ongoing therapy for children with a diagnosis of Autism. All services are overseen by Licensed Board Certified Behavior Analysts and are implemented by behavior technicians. Programming is crafted to meet the needs of each individual family and child, with focus on building family capacity and independence for the child with Autism. Funding sources include Medicaid (Husky A) as well as qualifying insurers such as Anthem, Aetna, and Cigna.
Benhaven hosted a gala for its 50th Anniversary which was attended by staff, individuals, family members, and alumni. Ted Kennedy Jr. was the Keynote Speaker and Shoosh Lettick spoke of the incredible work of her mother Amy Lettick who created Benhaven.
Benhaven was awarded a grant from the Connecticut Developmental Disabilities Council to have nine staff trained in Customized Employment. Benhaven is one of a handful of organizations that now have staff certified in this individualized approach to prepare and support individuals for jobs. The methods are used by the staff in Career and Transition Services.
Benhaven opened a new program: Career and Transition Services to support young adults transitioning from school to adult services who need support finding employment and participating in post-secondary education.
Benhaven opened its eighth residence, Blue Trail in Hamden. The home serves four young men who graduated from Benhaven School.
Benhaven hosted its first annual Benhaven Walk which was attended by over 300 people. The Walk is now the organization’s annual fundraiser.
The second annual Benhaven Walk was dedicated to William Armstrong. Mr. Armstrong was a resident of North Haven and a lifelong dedicated runner. He generously donated the majority of his estate to Benhaven.