By Gregory V. Boerio
Rich Center Executive Director
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Rich Center for Autism at Youngstown State University was founded with the support of the local community with a focus on the treatment, education and research of autism spectrum disorder.
With the rate of ASD growing at an alarming rate, now with one in 44 children being diagnosed, The Rich Center is more than prepared to meet the growing needs of students, their families and the ASD community.
Throughout the past 27 years, The Rich Center has embraced its mission and vision with a focus on increasing the awareness, understanding and acceptance of ASD through the implementation of high-yield practices, research, collaboration and love.
The 2021-22 academic year proved to be no different for The Rich Center. Staff, students and families returned to Fedor Hall following a year of renovations. Highlights include more job sites for vocational programming, revamped literacy instruction, newly developed independent living skills instruction and a deeper dive into individualized programming.
Through the support of a grant from the Youngstown Foundation, the center also began development, implementation and evaluation of RoboKind, an evidence-based intervention that uses facially expressive, assistive robots as facilitators of a social-emotional curriculum. RoboKind continues to be implemented for all students, including those who attend The Rich Center’s program at St. Charles School in Boardman.
Although much success with this intervention has been accomplished, The Rich Center is excited for what’s to come, including updated research to support future implementation. With advocacy and awareness important aspects of our mission, The Rich Center expanded our work in these avenues through collaboration with like-minded autism support agencies.
Through our 25th anniversary gala and other fundraising events, as well as the support of our generous donors and grant agencies, we were able to expand on our development goals post-COVID to fund and enhance the key components of our mission. All of this is made possible because of the efforts of The Rich Center’s dedicated teachers, students, staff and families.
Growth is central to the minds, hearts and actions of all stakeholders involved with The Rich Center. From what began in 1995 as a six-week summer enrichment program for preschool students, The Rich Center has become a staple of both the Youngstown and YSU communities.