Alumna named Kelly Autism Program director

Michelle Elkins became the director of the Kelly Autism Program on Aug. 1, 2015. Elkins said she has been preparing for the first day of the center’s K-12 after-school programs. “It’s been very, very busy, ” Elkins said. “But just wait and see what it’s like in 14 days.” 

Hannah Shaffer

For Michelle Elkins, her new role as director for the Kelly Autism Program is more than just a job: it’s an opportunity to give back. 

The Kelly Autism Program named Elkins the new director on Aug. 1. 

The program is part of WKU’s Suzanne Vitale Clinical Education Complex, which is a university-based service facility. The program provides educational, social and supportive environments to individuals diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, according to the program’s website.

Elkins is replacing Dr. Marty Boman, who retired after directing the Kelly Autism Program for 10 years.

“I am excited and humbled at the opportunity to serve in this capacity,” Elkins said. “This population is a true love of mine and assisting them in becoming successful in their life is a true joy.”

As a WKU graduate, Elkins believes she is “a Hilltopper through and through,” and is excited to be working here with the program. 

“I am thrilled to give back to my alma mater especially in a service capacity,” Elkins said. 

The program works with individuals ages six to 18 and even has a college program where some students may attend WKU.

The Kelly Autism Program currently contains 44 students in the college program. Throughout the program, the students are provided with mentors to assist with classes. The college program also hosts socials in hopes of providing the best and most productive college experience possible for its students, Elkins said.

“The Kelly Autism program assists students who have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum disorder throughout their college career,” said Elkins.

“Through our mentoring program, study tables and social events, students who are on the spectrum can attend college in a comfortable and supportive environment and gain organization and independence.”

Elkins has extensive experience in the field, making her an ideal candidate for the position.

“I am a speech language pathologist and had practiced for 21 years in various settings,” said Elkins. 

Some settings Elkins worked in prior to Kelly Autism were Bowling Green City School Systems and Warren County Schools. More recently, she worked as a full time clinical supervisor in the Communications Disorders Clinic at WKU. 

As she takes on her new role as director of the Kelly Autism Program, Elkins plans to change the curriculum of the program to focus on “skill builders” such as social language, creating friendships and learning to build relationships.

“My goals for this program is to develop a working and cooperative relationship with other professionals to ensure that those enrolled in our program feel successful and supported in their daily lives whether at home, school, work or in social environments,” said Elkins.

Working with people who have autism hits close to home with Elkins and makes the responsibility worthwhile to her.

“This became a real special interest for me,” Elkins said. “I have a nephew who was diagnosed on the spectrum and as I was walking through that with my sister and helping her get her services developed and things done for him, it takes on a special meaning for you and it lets you know ‘What can I do to be an advocate for other children and adults who are going to need that kind of assistance.’”