YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — For almost 30 years, The Rich Center for Autism has given hope to families across the Valley and beyond that children diagnosed with autism can reach their full potential. As Autism Awareness Month comes to a close, WKBN Evening Anchor Lindsey Watson shares the story of the Tablack family and how The Rich Center has changed their son’s life.

Six-year-old Angelo Tablack is part of the early education class at The Rich Center.
His parents Joe and Megan Tablack say in the two years he’s been at the school, he’s made leaps and bounds in his education and communication.

“We know he’s getting exactly what he needs at this time,” Megan said. “When Angelo first started here, he was completely non-verbal. He didn’t say mom and dad — he lost a lot of those things around 18 months.”

Now, Angelo is able to say six-word sentences and communicate with the use of a tablet. His dad knew by his son’s second day that this was exactly where he was meant to be.

“He never looked back. He just ran right into school and it was in that moment I felt like we made the right choice,” Joe said.

For Angelo and his parents, The Rich Center has become a second home, a safe place where their child is loved, understood and given the tools to grow.

They attribute all of Angelo’s success to the school’s individualized curriculum and the one-on-one teaching he’s received.

Ali Leskovec has been teaching at the school for eight years. She explained early childhood education as the foundation to everything the students do.

“He is such a joy to have,” Leskovec said. “A lot of our students are freshly diagnosed, so when they come in here, they’ve had no prior education.”

Which she says makes the individual education plan, or IEP, and small classrooms so important.

“In the early childhood, we focus on pre-kindergarten skills, so that’s anything from your basic math and language arts, numbers, letters, shapes, colors,” Leskovec said.

Along with collaboration from the families they serve…

“We’re here for the students — that’s our ultimate goal: to provide them with the best education possible and to watch them make progress. But at the same time, we’re also here for their parents,” Leskovec said.

“I don’t regret the decision with sending him here,” Megan said.

The Rich Center is also teaming up with the YSU baseball team this weekend to continue to raise awareness. Saturday afternoon, the team will be wearing special Autism Awareness jerseys that will be auctioned off to benefit The Rich Center. The first pitch is set for noon.