Our Mission.


Our mission is for OCA to enable individuals and families with autism or other disabilities the opportunity to maximize their abilities through functional, behavioral, social, recreational and vocational programs to live within the community. We live this mission everyday through our core values:


OCA is a place where every individual is accepted and understood for their abilities and possibilities by providing an opportunity to achieve, contribute, and grow. We are working to purchase land to build a multi-functional facility for the Central Florida special needs population and their families and, ultimately, building a residential facility where members of the local special needs population can work, live and play in a community setting.

Our Story.

Thirteen years ago, Silvia Haas and Margaret Newman Thornton gathered on a park bench with a group of women they call the ‘founding sisters’. Their goal was to find a way to meet the needs of families with children of special needs. That first meeting took place with 18 other parents to talk about not only their children’s current needs, but to envision a future where their children could have a place to ‘work, live, and play’. That first meeting launched OCA, which stands for Opportunity, Community, Ability.

The mission to enable individuals and families with autism or other disabilities the opportunity to maximize their abilities is anchored by the goal that each person can and should contribute in their community. “We started with summer camps, then added after-school recreational care,” said Thornton, COO. Haas, now CEO of the thriving organization, keeps the focus on ability. “Each year we add programs because we respond to the needs of our participants,“ said Haas. For instance, when participants started aging out of programs, the team added Adult Vocational Training.

Along the way they developed strong partnerships, like with Central Florida Dreamplex, a therapeutic provider with whom they share a building. Having expanded facilities is a game-changer for them and the families they serve. They’ve been able to increase programming by seventy-five percent. Haas coaches the OCA Eagles, their Special Olympics soccer team, who have been invited to the USA games four times, winning gold in 2018. In 2015, Haas was runner-up for Central Floridian of the Year and in 2021 won OCA second place in The Victory Cup Initiative. Thornton, a licensed mental health counselor and Board Certified Behavior Analyst, focuses on developing the programs needed to support families with a foundation of evidence-based practices and scientifically proven success. Her passion for Early Intervention helped expand their programs to serve ages birth through adults.

The future is their focus now. Their ultimate goal is going beyond day programs to create a place for participants to live where they can contribute their abilities and impact the community.

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