YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Erika Campolito has worked at The Rich Center for Autism at Youngstown State University for the last 10 years. 

“Our students are happy, healthy. The capability is beyond words,” said Campolito, a classroom supervisor at the center.  

What You Need To Know

  • The Rich Center for Autism started its mission in the Mahoning Valley 27 years ago 

  • The CDC says 1 in 36 children are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder 

  • The Rich Center works with children aged two and a half to adults 21 years old 

The center provides educational services and life skills for 65 students between the ages of two and a half through 21. 

Although she has seen an increase in young children being diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Campolito said early intervention is key. 

“Talk to your pediatrician, because getting into a program early, we’ve seen a lot of success with students who start, maybe two and a half, three-year age when they’re in early intervention,” said Campolito. 

It’s success stories like Michael Fuller that bring a smile to Campolito’s face each day. 

Fuller, who is 21 years old, has been involved with vocational training, and is often out in the community at various job sites, learning specific skills. 

Campolito said the training helps students narrow done a future path as well as breakdown stigmas. 

“Whether it’s at a greenhouse, they work at a country club some days, at a factory, doing some clerical and janitorial work. You know he’s not only learning skills, but we’re also able to ask Michael what kind of jobs he likes,” said Campolito. 

The CDC said Autism Spectrum Disorder is no stranger to all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. 

It’s four times more common among boys and currently, one out of every 36 children has been diagnosed with ASD.

Whether it's new education methods or educating yourself, Campolito said it's important everyone does their part.

“Treat everyone with respect, be kind, get to know the individual with Autism. Everyone has likes, dislikes, they’re just like you and I. And like we said, very capable and very fun,” said Campolito.