LifeWorks helps students on autism spectrum

Lily Burris

LifeWorks at WKU is building a housing facility for former students on the autism spectrum, members of the LifeWorks board, WKU President Timothy Caboni and local officials broke ground on the facility Monday.

This facility will be the home for a program that will help those 21 and over and on the autism spectrum live independently and maintain employment. There will be six participants in the program when it starts, which is expected to be in August 2020. The program could grow to 26 participants.

Each resident will receive a mentor to assess their interests in needs while living in LifeWorks at WKU so they will further engage within their communities, according to a news release.The ground-breaking event on Monday signified the start of construction on the residence and office spaces, which partners expect to be completed by April 2020.

At the ceremony, Joe Dan Beavers, president and CEO of LifeSkills Inc., spoke highly of all the resources and support that have come from WKU and the Bowling Green community for this program. Beavers is also the board chair for the LifeWorks Board of Directors.

“This is just, I think, one of many of the next steps of groundbreaking and innovating work that you’re going to see out of this group,” Beavers said. “I’m just so excited and really honored to even play a small part.”

Caboni said programs like LifeWorks at WKU are a part of what “great universities,” like WKU do. He said the program is a “great next step” to go with the work of the Kelly Autism Program and the Suzanne Vitale Clinical Education Complex.

“Folks, this truly is a game-changer for our university, for our community, for our region and for our state,” Caboni said.

Ron Bunch, president and CEO of the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce, said that the partnership between the Chamber and LifeWorks at WKU will be a good thing. This program further supports the idea that Bowling Green is a great and caring place to live.

“We at the Chamber are 100% committed to connecting the business community with the opportunities and the individuals that will be going through this program and really just weaving an even stronger, even greater community,” Bunch said.

Mary Lloyd Moore, Executive Director of the Suzanne Vitale Clinical Education Complex, also spoke to the purposes and goals of the LifeWorks at WKU program.

“LifeWorks at WKU is a four-tier program that will focus on independence, productivity, and community engagement,” Moore explained. “For students to achieve independence, LifeWorks will provide supported living accommodations for up to 26 individuals.”

Moore explained that the four tiers of LifeWorks will focus on supported living, supported employment, community engagement and education for relationships, at home, in the workplace and out in the community.

Although the capacity of the buildings is estimated to be 26 individuals, the first “cohort” will be around six, according to Moore. She went on to explain that the full capacity of 26 residents will be reached in two to three years.

Moore stated that the program would develop partnerships with businesses in the Bowling Green Area that will continue to grow and develop as construction moves forward.

“This is an incredibly unique opportunity,” Moore said. “We will join the ranks of pioneers in providing programming and support for individuals on the autism spectrum as they transition to adult life and navigate the work world independently.”

News reporter Abbey Nutter can be reached at 270-745-6011 and abbigail. [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @abbeynutter.

News reporter Lily Burris can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @lily_burris.