YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – April is Autism Awareness Month. Here in the Valley, we have several amazing schools and programs that focus on autism awareness and education. One of them is The Rich Center for Autism, where WKBN Evening Anchor Lindsey Watson is a member of the advisory board. The school is doing all it can to not only promote awareness but also acceptance.

The Rich Center has been helping families and children with autism for almost 30 years. It provides evidence-based methods and therapies for the treatment, education and research of autism.

“Over the past couple of years, we’ve worked diligently to reignite that focus on research,” said Dr. Greg Boerio, executive director of The Rich Center.

Because of that, the educators at The Rich Center have been able to start doing their own research using specific statistics and measurements to track the progress their students are making.

“You want to be able to look especially at all of those impacts that the education and programming are having for each individual student,” Dr. Boerio said.

Dr. Boerio likes to call it “action research.”

“We’re trying new things, we’re being innovative, we’re keeping up with the research that’s out there and some of the latest interventions and methods to support our students,” Dr. Boerio said.

“We’re looking at the skills they possess, the things they are able to do and also the things that they need help with,” said Rachel Dobson, associate director of behavior.

Like communicating their wants and needs.

“Some of our kids are able to use their words, they’re able to talk. Other kids may need a communication device,” Dobson said.

Being a part of Youngstown State University has also helped The Rich Center in its evolution.

“The support from the university is immeasurable in helping us grow in ways that are going to help us define best practices in autism education, not only here in the Valley but across the autism community at large,” Dr. Boerio said.

As we close out Autism Awareness Month, stay tuned Friday night on First News at 10 and 11 as we introduce you to the Tablack family and their son Angelo. They said in the two years he has been enrolled in the early education classes at The Rich Center, he has made remarkable leaps and bounds in his education and communication.