BOARDMAN, Ohio (WKBN) – The Red Roof Inn in Boardman has been sold and will be transformed into a center for autism.
It’s a big building covering 50,000 square feet that will be a place where people ages one to 21 on the autism spectrum can be diagnosed and treated.
“All they want is treatment that I can provide but I don’t have the space to do so,” said Dr. Julie Knapp, CEO of the Knapp Center for Autism.
They have two other locations and operate with 13,000 square feet. The new space will allow them to customize the building to meet their “state of the art” needs. It starts with replacing the windows.
“Sometimes we have children behaviors and they might go over and bang on the window. I can make sure we have really good windows that aren’t going to crack or break or harm somebody,” Dr. Knapp said.
Hotels also have a lot of bathrooms, which is another need of theirs. She also wants to add surveillance cameras in each room, upgrade technology and keep the building secured.
“I also have a great team, including my general contractor, who wants to invest in a project that’s going to be something that gives back to the community,” Dr. Knapp said.
The load-bearing walls are also spaced out enough that they can combine hotel rooms to make bigger rooms for gyms, activities or classrooms.
The goal is to start construction in June and be up and running sometime in the fall.
Dr. Knapp plans to employ 75 to 100 people and apply a medical-based applied behavior analysis model with the people they serve.
“What that means is that children receive one on one therapy. So that was the need for a large building, such as a hotel, because it’s not 10 children in a classroom with one teacher. If you have 10 children, you have 10 therapists and you have a supervisor. So you actually have more adults than children being serviced in order to provide this evidence-based treatment,” Dr. Knapp said.
According to the CDC, one in 44 eight-year-olds is identified as on the autism spectrum. The CDC also says around 5.5 million adults are identified as on the autism spectrum.
“Those rates are increasing and, you know, autism, it’s a spectrum disorder. Now we just say autism spectrum disorder when previously, we had a lot of different individual disorders,” said Dr. Greg Boerio with the Rich Center for Autism.
Dr. Boerio says adding more of these centers is important and necessary and only sees the addition of this new one as a good thing.
“I only see [it] as a positive for our community. It offers more opportunities for collaboration, it offers more opportunities for growth,” Dr. Boerio said.
He added it’ll provide opportunities for people to work together and support those in need.