YMCA of Greater Erie


Meet Alex Shiflett.

Imagine playing in the park with your 1½ year old son. It’s a warm, sunny day and you notice a beautiful, friendly Labrador retriever running toward you. Suddenly your toddler “freaks out” and begins to frantically scratch and grab you, needing to be picked up and held. As you hold him, he keeps a wary eye on the dog.

This happened to Christina Callari when she was in the park with her son, Alex, and it sent up red flag – something wasn’t right. Christina had Alex evaluated at the Barber Center where he was diagnosed with Autism and ID (Intellectual Disability).

As a single mom, Christina needed special care for her son. He attended the Barber Center from the age of 2-5 years. Once Alex was school-age, he participated in the Autistic Support program at Emerson-Gridley from K-4 and is now in the program at Harding Elementary where he is in 5th grade.

Alex has received wonderful support and guidance from the in-school programs. The problems arose for Christina when she took Alex to before and after school care. “He was a mess. He never wanted to go.” Not knowing what to do, Christina rearranged her schedule for a year so Alex didn’t have to feel so unhappy.

The change came this past summer when Alex was enrolled in the summer camp at the Downtown Y and subsequently in the before and after school programs at the Y. Alex is now happy and thriving at the Y. Everyone loves Alex. Alex is happy, his mom, Christina, is thrilled. Alex has found his “happy place” with tremendous support and acceptance from the staff and other children at the Downtown YMCA.