BENNINGTON -- A local counseling service wants to get parents of children with autism to help design an autism program.

"Parents are the experts here," said Michelle Burnham, children's clinical supervisor at United Counseling Service. "They are out there trying to navigate this on their own for the most part."

UCS recently received an anonymous donation of $14,000 to provide services to children with autism.

Burnham said UCS has a number of clients with autism, however there are no specific services for those people. Some of the funding will go toward getting two UCS staff members to become Board Certified Behavioral Analysts, while the rest will go toward purchasing tools and education materials to be used much sooner.

The materials will be for parents, UCS staff, and children with autism.

"It's really in its infancy stages," Burnham said.

Parents of children who wish to serve on the panel that will help design the program should contact Burnham at 802-442-5491.

Burnham said she knows the program will seek to match up with what services are being offered through schools, that way children using those services will have consistency. She said she does not know how many people using UCS's other services have been diagnosed with autism. The criteria for an official diagnosis is strict, she said, and many people without it still show symptoms.

According to UCS, autism spectrum disorders and autism show signs in a person when they are between 2 and 3 years old. Typically these manifest as difficulties with verbal and non-verbal communication, social interaction, and repetitive behaviors.

"We want to send out a heartfelt ‘thank you' to the individual who made this generous donation," said UCS Executive Director Ralph Provenza in a release. "With these funds we are able to create a new resource to help our community and provide services to the increasing number of children who are diagnosed with autism, and their families."

Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at kwhitcomb@benningtonbanner.com or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.