Autism Works, Inc.
915 East County Road H
Liberty MO 64068
Web and Phone Contact
Telephone (816) 792-0019
Mission Statement
Autism Works is an organization serving individuals and families who are affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders.  We believe great resources, information and support should be available to everyone in the community. Our organization works with families and the local community to increase autism awareness and develop support for families dealing with the everyday struggles of living on the spectrum.
CEO/Executive Director Mrs. Dessarey Klarlund
Board Chair Mrs. Jamie Krisman
Board Chair Company Affiliation Helms Properties, LLC
History and Background
Year of Incorporation 2010
Financial Summary
Revenue Expense Area Graph

Comparing revenue to expenses shows how the organizations finances fluctuate over time.

Source: IRS Form 990

Net Gain/Loss:    in 
Note: When component data are not available, the graph displays the total Revenue and/or Expense values.
Mission Statement Autism Works is an organization serving individuals and families who are affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders.  We believe great resources, information and support should be available to everyone in the community. Our organization works with families and the local community to increase autism awareness and develop support for families dealing with the everyday struggles of living on the spectrum.
Background Statement Before Autism Works, there was a significant gap in autism services and support in the Northland, Clay County and rural counties outside of the Kansas City area. Autism Works was established in 2010 by a group of dedicated parents and volunteers who had the desire and passion to create a place for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and their families to belong. The goal was to provide new resources and support for children with ASD and their families in the Northland community and surrounding counties. It started with a few parents and teens meeting once a month for a social club and developed into a full time program serving all ages. Over the past five years the organization has grown tremendously and provided many new programs and support to the ASD community.
Impact Statement

Autism Works offers four different social skills classes for grades K-12, young adults programs for ages 18-29, art programs, teen game nights, summer programs, family & community activities as well as parent workshops and support groups.

2016 Accomplishments: 
  • Opened a new Elementary classroom for our youngest students complete with technology and new furniture.
  • Installed a much-needed fence for our outdoor play area to keep our students safe and secure.
  • Developed a Parent Advisory Committee to lead us into the future.
  • Hosted new community events- 1st Annual Trunk or Treat and a Holiday Open House
  • Raised $22,000 at our annual fundraiser in April.
  • Launched a new cooking class for young adults 18-29.
  • Updated our website to include a resource library.
2017 Goals: 
  • Increase our fundraising efforts to support our expanding programs to keep the out of pocket costs minimal for families.
  • Increase our marketing efforts to improve community recognition.
  • Expand our young adults STRIVE program to accommodate more students.
Needs Statement
  • 12 Passenger Van- needed to transport participants in community integration program for young adults.
  • IPads
  • HP Office Jet Pro 9610 ink cartridges
  • Printer paper
  • Corporate sponsors for our annual fundraiser in April.
  • Marketing support- donation of marketing supplies or the donation of an individual’s expertise in creating marketing material.
Service Categories
Mental Health Disorders
Children's and Youth Services
Areas of Service
MO - Clay County
MO - Liberty
MO - Platte County
KS - Johnson County
MO - Jackson County
MO - Ray County
Autism Works is located in Liberty Missouri. Our students come from every surrounding county in the KC Metro area.
CEO/Executive Director/Board Chair Statement
When my grandson was diagnosed with Aspergers our family knew nothing about Autism. We started the journey to educate ourselves and find help for this wonderful little boy. To our surprise, there was nothing north of Kansas City to assist us. This inspired me to find a way to provide support for the Northland, so I founded Autism Works.
We have a diverse board representing many different professions, talents, and leaders in the Northland. Most have volunteered their time from the very beginning. They have a strong commitment to fulfill our mission and measure our progress and growth.
We  have hired highly qualified staff with autism expertise to work with our children. Our Executive Director, Dessarey Klarlund, energizes the parents with workshops, support groups and seeks out experienced professionals to enhance our organization. She is continually measuring, evaluating the impact of the ongoing classes, support groups and activities provided by Autism Works.
Our major challenge is funding to continue our growth and success with our mission.  We have seen an increase in financial support for low income families, in addition we keep our program fees very low. We currently have one major fundraiser annually that have doubled in size and attendance every year. In addition, we receive support from individual and corporate donations and have continue grant writing to meet our goals.
Autism Works offers four different social skill classes to accommodate ages 5-18. Social skills classes focus specifically on helping children understand their own and others emotions, developing improved skills to communicate their feelings and recognize other’s feelings, knowing how to start and maintain interactions appropriately and understanding other people’s perspectives. The social skills classes are also helping students to strengthen focusing skills and attention span, increase self-expression, improve language and social skills, decrease in self stimulating behaviors, and build strong sensory integration skills.

The social skills classes have a direct instruction research based approach that provides a safe place for students to practice their social skills, make mistakes and receive immediate feedback.  
Program Budget $80,000.00
Category Human Services, General/Other Services for Individuals with Disabilities
Population Served Children and Youth (0 - 19 years), ,
Program is linked to organization's mssion Yes
Program Frequently Assessed Yes
Short-Term Success Short-term impacts for children attending the social skills classes: increased eye contact, increased verbal communication with teacher, improved play and conversational skills, increased comfort in social settings, improved peer interaction, improved control of emotional expression, increased ability to negotiate conflict, reduced general anxiety, and increased asking and commenting skills.
Long-Term Success Children who attend the social skills classes will find new ways to communicate and express themselves. Children in the social skills classes will learn to better understand basic communication rules, better interpret social cues, and learn improved ways to interact with their peers, family and community.
Program Success Monitored By
Autism Works measures success by continued growth, retention and parents feedback in their child’s social skills progress reports. Many of the findings indicate that students show an increased ability to read social cues, problem solve, and increase reciprocal interaction in social settings. Research has shown that behavioral social skill training is most effective when six core principles are included:
  1. Social skills are assessed in natural, everyday settings
  2. Environments are created that support social interaction
  3. Educators teach social skills to children with autism as well as their peers
  4. Direct instruction is reduced over time
  5. Training is continued through the day and across activities
  6. Educators track the effectiveness of training over time. 
Autism Works classes meet all six principles. Dr. VanBuskirk provides ongoing tracking and evaluation of all students in her classes, communicating with parents.
Examples of Program Success

I can never thank Autism Works enough for what you have done for my son.  I shudder to think what his high school years could have been like without Sabrina’s knowledge and guidance. He has learned and matured so much through your weekly classes.  He is applying to attend the Propel program at UMKC this fall and I don’t think he would have been able to accomplish this without you and your programs.  We are forever indebted.

Stephanie C
STRIVE is designed to serve as an additional piece of preparation for high functioning individuals with Autism or Aspergers between the ages of 18-29. The focus of STRIVE is to encourage and foster independence in work skills, personal life, money management and social interaction among peers. STRIVE aims to ensure that individuals are prepared for the next step in their lives by teaching and practicing critical skills for independence in adulthood.
Program Budget $8,000.00
Category Human Services, General/Other Services for Individuals with Disabilities
Population Served People/Families with People of Developmental Disabilities, ,
Program is linked to organization's mssion Yes
Program Frequently Assessed Yes
Short-Term Success The transition from school to adult life is an immense feat for anyone; this shift seems to be especially challenging for individuals with Autism, as well as their support systems. The STRIVE program has been designed to work with those individuals. Participants will identify their strengths and areas that need more support and training.
Long-Term Success Individuals who attend STRIVE classes will have additional exposure to job readiness, meal preparation, household responsibilities, appropriate hygiene and grooming skills as well as community involvement and leisure skills. Our goal is to help participants become independent in the home and community and learn basic skills to secure employment.
Program Success Monitored By Program success is monitored by the class instructor, participants and their caregivers. Initial assessments are done on each individual to identify areas of strengths to build on and areas that need additional support and training. Weekly goals and tasks are sent home with participants. Follow up and instruction are provided to individuals who need support accomplishing their individual goals.
Examples of Program Success
Young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders are less likely to continue their education or get a job after high school when compared to young adults with other disabilities. According to a recent study, only about 35 percent of young adults with ASD attended college and only about 55 percent had a job the first six years after high school. Many parents with children with ASD describe leaving high school as falling off of a cliff because of the lack of services for adults with ASD. Many programs focus only on children, however Autism does not disappear in adolescence. The majority of lifespan is spent in adulthood.
The STRIVE program will provide support and services to fill in this gap.
Description Y.A.A.S. is a community integration program for young adults diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders. The focus of this program is to help young adults ages 18-29 become more independent and an active member of their community by learning how to plan and participate in various community outings.
Program Budget $8,000.00
Category Human Services, General/Other Services for Individuals with Disabilities
Population Served People/Families with People of Developmental Disabilities, ,
Program is linked to organization's mssion Yes
Program Frequently Assessed Yes
Short-Term Success

Due to the lack of community programs, many adults with ASD experience higher levels of loneliness and lower peer relationship quality than same aged peers.

This program addresses these issues by providing these individuals with an opportunity to become more engaged with others and become an active member of their communities.

Long-Term Success

The goal of this program is to teach young adults how to become more independent with planning their own social activities and feel less isolated by participating in events within their communities.

Program Success Monitored By AW leadership staff evaluate attendance data monthly and rely on participant and parent feedback. This data is used to make ongoing program adjustments to increase the effectiveness of programming.
Examples of Program Success Before the Young Adults Adventure Squad, many young adults with ASD were isolated in their homes with limited social interactions and opportunities to participate in community events. Through weekly activities and monthly planning meetings, these individuals have become more independent and self confident in their abilities to be an active member of their communities.

Autism Works provides monthly art classes in addition to a summer art program for ages 5 - 19. The classes are led by a local artist who provides the children with step by step instruction to create fun projects using a mix of mediums and techniques. This program allows children with Autism Spectrum Disorders to use their creativity to express themselves. It also provides an opportunity for additional social interactions among peers in a group setting. The program is provided at a low cost for families and is supported by regular volunteers. Siblings ages 6+ are also welcome to attend to help build stronger sibling relationships.

Category Arts, Culture & Humanities, General/Other
Population Served K-12 (5-19 years), ,
Short-Term Success Short term benefits of art programs for children with autism are in the area of helping with communication. Children with Autism usually have trouble expressing themselves and understanding the subtleties of meaning when others communicate. Teaching them how to create art gives them another method of expressing themselves that may be much easier for them to use. Creating art also provides a way for children with ASD to improve their overall self-opinion and gives them a feeling of independence
Long-Term Success
The long term benefits of art address:
  • Imagination/abstract thinking deficits-Art projects provide a visual, concrete format in which to develop abstract thinking skills, express creativity, and increase flexibility.
  • Sensory regulation and integration-Art can provide safe, enjoyable sensory integration and exploration experiences that help create calm and regulated bodies.
  • Emotions/Self-expression-Autism is mentally, physically, and emotionally stressful and many people living with it can benefit from productive ways of expressing their feelings.
  • Developmental Growth-Art helps improve artistic/drawing development, fine motor skills, and social/relational skills.
  • Recreation/Leisure skills-Self-direction, industriousness, patience, and pride in one's work are important life skills that require a great deal of teaching.
  • Visual-spatial deficits-Drawing is a useful tool for both revealing and addressing visual-spatial deficits such as mental rotation and improving hand-eye coordination.
Program Success Monitored By Program success is monitored by parent feedback, project evaluations and increased participation.
Examples of Program Success The art program at Autism Works continues to experience an increase in participation and the return of students every month. Students are always excited to attend class and show a sense of pride in their work. Many of our art projects and classes are available to view on our website.
Description Often parents and caregivers feel alone in their journey once their child is diagnosed with ASD. Support groups provide a place for parents to connect to others, share stories, celebrate successes and relieve stress. Our support groups are in a relaxed setting with an open format for conversation and sharing. Autism Works offers two different support groups that meet once a month- Parents Night Out and Moms Brunch Support Group. Parents Night Out gives both parents the opportunity to enjoy an evening out with other parents. Dealing with the everyday stress of having a child on the spectrum leaves little time for parents to get out and relax. This group provides a relaxed atmosphere with friends and lets the parents enjoy an evening without the kids. The Mom’s Brunch group offers the same type of support but focuses on support among other moms. For mothers of children with ASD, they can experience a different kind of stress that only another mom can relate to.
Category Human Services, General/Other Parenting Education
Population Served People/Families with People of Developmental Disabilities, ,
Program is linked to organization's mssion Yes
Program Frequently Assessed Yes
Short-Term Success Parents and caregivers with support, experience reduced stress, improved advocacy skills, increased sense of belonging and acceptance in the community. There is a feeling of relief knowing you’re not alone and others share the same experiences.
Long-Term Success Our long term goal for the support groups is to increase attendance and eventually be able to provide free child care so more parents can attend who do not have reliable childcare options available.
Program Success Monitored By Since the introduction of our support group meetings, we have always asked parents for feedback and allowed them to express their ideas on what kind of support group they would feel most comfortable attending. Our support groups are regularly attended and have increased in numbers every year.
Examples of Program Success The parent support groups have helped us so much it's hard to put it into words.  For the first 18 years of our son’s life we had zero support from anyone else who even had a clue to what we were going through.  Once we moved here though we found a lot of other parents who truly got what we were going through.  The parent’s night out support group has been great for both of us; I think it’s really good for the dad's to get to talk to other dads who are dealing with a not always pleasant teen age boy with autism.  The mom's brunch support group has also been very supportive, I often feel like I'm helping a mom with a child who is younger since I've already been there done that and got the t shirt.  Overall these support groups are priceless to us; we've made several friends and know there's nothing we can say about our son that they can almost always relate to.- Christy Hunt 
Executive Director/CEO
Executive Director Mrs. Dessarey Klarlund
Term Start Jan 2015
Compensation $0 - $50,000
Experience Dessarey Klarlund started as a parent volunteer in 2010 and developed the teen club program for teens with ASD. Over the past several years she has developed many new programs to support the Autism community including; the social skills programs for grades K-12, young adults program for ages 18-29 and parent support groups. Dessarey is also the parent of a young adult with an Aspergers and has first hand knowledge about the needs of the Autism community.
Co-CEO/Executive Director
Term Start 0
Compensation Last Year
Senior Staff
Title Director of Programs

Dessarey started as a parent volunteer in 2010 and created the teen club program for teens with ASD. Over the past two years she has developed many new programs including the social skill program and parent support groups.

Dessarey is a parent of a teen with an Aspergers and has a great passion for serving the ASD community. She also currently volunteers as a parent mentor for the Institute for Human Development / Sharing Our Strengths program.
Paid Full-Time Staff 1
Paid Part-Time Staff 0
Volunteers 50
Paid Contractors 10
Retention Rate 100%
Staff Diversity (Gender)
Female 9
Male 1
Formal Evaluations
CEO Formal Evaluation Yes
CEO/Executive Formal Evaluation Frequency Annually
Senior Management Formal Evaluation Yes
Senior Management Formal Evaluation Frequency Quarterly
Non-Management Formal Evaluation Yes
Non-Management Formal Evaluation Frequency Semi-Annually
Plans & Policies
Organization Has a Fundraising Plan Yes
Organization Has a Strategic Plan Yes
Management Succession Plan Under Development
Organization Policy and Procedures Yes
Nondiscrimination Policy Yes
Whistleblower Policy Yes
Document Destruction Policy Yes
Autism Works partners with the local Liberty High School by providing a work experience opportunity for their ESC classroom students with severe disabilities to clean our facility twice a month. Instead of hiring a cleaning company, these students use our facility to work on vocational skills and prepare for Job Olympics. In return, they receive funding from Autism Works to use for their end of year class field trips.
Nonprofit Connect of Greater Kansas City2015
Chamber of Commerce2017
Government Licenses
Is your organization licensed by the government? No
CEO Comments
Since 2010, our organization has grown from one program serving only teens, to many programs serving ages 5 -29.
As we continue to move forward, we recognize the need to expand and develop new programs for our students as they grow older. In addition to our ongoing Social Skill Programs, Autism Works is also committed to researching and exploring new ideas for future plans to accommodate the needs of our young adults in our community. We look forward to continuing to serve families with loved ones diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders.
Board Chair
Board Chair Mrs. Jamie Krisman
Company Affiliation Helms Properties, LLC
Term Sept 2013 to Sept 2018
Board Co-Chair
Board Co-Chair Mr. Dan Mathews
Company Affiliation Summit Behavioral
Board Members
Mrs. Amy Abbiatti Community Volunteer
Mrs. Leslie Byram Special Needs Planning Center
Mr. Samuel Carnes Carnes CPA, LLC
Mr. Paul Gerberding DST Systems
Mr. Jim Koger H&R Block
Ms. Jamie Krisman Helms Properties, LLC
Mr. Kelley Martin Martin Financial Group, LLC
Mr. Dan Mattews Summit Behavioral Services, Inc
Board Demographics - Ethnicity
African American/Black 0
Asian American/Pacific Islander 0
Caucasian 8
Hispanic/Latino 0
Native American/American Indian 0
Other 0
Board Demographics - Gender
Male 5
Female 3
Unspecified 0
Board Term Lengths 3
Board Term Limits 2
Board Meeting Attendance % 100%
Written Board Selection Criteria? Yes
Written Conflict of Interest Policy? Yes
Percentage Making Monetary Contributions 100%
Percentage Making In-Kind Contributions 100%
Constituency Includes Client Representation Yes
Number of Full Board Meetings Annually 4
Standing Committees
CEO Comments Autism Works developed a Parent Advisory Committee in 2016 to help lead us into the future. Together, they form a strong team and are a vital part of our organization's growth and success.
Fiscal Year Start Jan 01, 2017
Fiscal Year End Dec 31, 2017
Projected Revenue $128,000
Projected Expenses $128,000
Spending Policy Income Only
IRS Letter of Exemption
Foundation Comments
  • FY 2015, 2014, 2013: Financial data reported using IRS Form 990.
  • Foundation/Corporate revenue line item may include contributions from individuals.
Detailed Financials
Expense Allocation
Fiscal Year201520142013
Program Expense$77,050$54,286$47,484
Administration Expense$20,296$12,687$13,395
Fundraising Expense$0$0$1,309
Payments to Affiliates--$0$0
Total Revenue/Total Expenses0.791.721.17
Program Expense/Total Expenses79%81%76%
Fundraising Expense/Contributed Revenue0%0%3%
Assets and Liabilities
Fiscal Year201520142013
Total Assets$52,935$73,320$25,376
Current Assets$46,437$64,965$25,376
Long-Term Liabilities$0$0$0
Current Liabilities$431$0$0
Total Net Assets$52,504$73,320$25,376
Short-Term Solvency
Fiscal Year201520142013
Current Ratio: Current Assets/Current Liabilities107.74----
Long-Term Solvency
Fiscal Year201520142013
Long-Term Liabilities/Total Assets0%0%0%
Top Funding Sources
Fiscal Year201520142013
Top Funding Source & Dollar AmountKunkel & Associates $10,200Kunkel and Associates $10,200Kunkel and Associates $10,200
Second Highest Funding Source & Dollar Amount -- --Individual Donor $10,000
Third Highest Funding Source & Dollar Amount -- -- --
Capital Campaign
Currently in a Capital Campaign? No
Organization Comments Autism Works received a grant during the 4th quarter of 2014 to cover the 2015 cash deficit.
Organization Name Autism Works, Inc.
Address 915 East County Road H
Liberty, MO 64068
Primary Phone (816) 792-0019
Contact Email
CEO/Executive Director Mrs. Dessarey Klarlund
Board Chair Mrs. Jamie Krisman
Board Chair Company Affiliation Helms Properties, LLC
Year of Incorporation 2010