Rich Center for Autism Adds Job Sites, Programs

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The incidence rate of autism spectrum disorder is rapidly increasing – it now stands at 1 in 36 children being diagnosed – and the Rich Center for Autism is meeting the needs of the ASD community, says Jake Ellis, community engagement coordinator.

Founded nearly three decades ago at Youngstown State University, the Rich Center focuses on promoting awareness, understanding and acceptance of ASD. Highlights of the last school year include an increase in job sites for vocational programming, revamped literacy instruction, newly developed independent living skills instruction, and a deeper dive into the individualized programming for every student.

The Rich Center also expanded its use of RoboKind, an evidence-based intervention that uses facially-expressive, assistive robots as facilitators of a social-emotional curriculum. A YSU graduate assistant was hired to implement its use.

This year, a phonics curriculum is being added to RoboKind, in an effort to develop both the social and speech skills of students.

With advocacy and awareness important aspects of its mission, the Rich Center teamed up with YSU student-athlete ambassadors to promote awareness and garner support for the autism community. These YSU student-athlete ambassadors have become friends of Rich Center students and their families alike, according to Ellis.

Rock the Rich Center, the largest fundraising event hosted by Rich Center, was a huge success, he says. Business owners and individuals showed their support by sponsoring and attending the event. The Vindys performed for guests.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.