Trial & error gets Rich Center for Autism through COVID-19, strengthening their ‘family’


Failure wasn't an option, so they quickly adapted

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – The Rich Center for Autism on the campus of Youngstown State University is celebrating 25 years. It’s a big milestone that was met with a lot of change this school year due to COVID-19.

For 25 years, the Rich Center has offered families hope, that all children no matter where they fall on the spectrum can reach their full potential.

The pandemic threw a lot of new challenges their way this school year.

“How do we do sort of the opposite of what we’re used to? Which I know so many educators have been feeling. We’re feeling, continue to feel and kinda work through that,” said Greg Boerio, interim director for the Rich Center.

Boerio said it was a lot of trial and error during their summer learning programs, but it helped get them to where they are today.

“It wasn’t easy but I think it demonstrated our family mentality around here,” he said.

A lot of these students are taught by working closely with their teachers, using hands-on activities.

Failure wasn’t an option, so they quickly adapted.

“So while there’s a handful of students who are present here in person, they’re connecting with other students who have selected our remote option,” Boerio said.

The big concern was the masks — it’s hard for adults and kids.

“And then including individuals with special needs like autism on top of that. So many challenges with that process,” Boerio said.

Boerio said he knows it’s not fun for the students and that it’s still something extra.

“But I’ll be honest, where we’re at with that process in my mind is nothing short of tremendous and I’m absolutely proud of our students and families in supporting that,” he said.

While all of this is happening, the Rich Center is also focusing on the next 25 years. Renovations are happening right now thanks to money from their capital campaign and fundraising efforts.

It’s all about growing.

“How can we provide access to the Rich Center? How can we provide access to our mission and our vision? And then how can we provide access for folks to have an enjoyable time and partake in an event even when those things are happening virtually?” Boerio said.

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Mel Robbins Main Area Middle