Autism Center receives gift from Hussman foundation
After receiving a $1.25 million gift from the John P. Hussman Foundation, the Towson University Center for Adults with Autism has constructed a life skills center inside the Towson City Center.
The skills center includes a fully-functional kitchen, living room, bedroom and bathroom that students on the spectrum of autism use to gain social and life skills that are often impeded by autism.
The autism center used to only exist in a 150 square-foot space, Ray Stinar administrative director for the Center for Adults with Autism said.
“Last year, we had a student who would not come out of his room for eight hours, because he couldn’t decide what shirt to put on,” Stinar said. “For us, that’s not that big of a deal, it’s something that we do every day, but for him, it was a huge task and eventually he got it, but those are the types of things that adults on the spectrum need help with.”
With help from the Baltimore County Government as well as the gift from the Hussman Foundation, the center was able to move into the Towson City Center and open several classrooms, including an animation lab and the life skills center.
In addition to the faculty members at the center, student mentors also assist the students and adults on the spectrum.
“Since we’ve moved, we’ve seen a huge increase in interest to volunteer with us,” Rhonda Greenhaw, director of the center for adults with autism, said. “It’s really exciting because we keep expanding every year.”
Greenhaw said that the students and adults are learning practical skills and that in the near future, some of the students with autism will also work in dining halls.
“We just really hope that students can learn these skills so they have something to contribute, and could hopefully turn these skills into a job,” she said.
The gift came out of a “mutual understanding” between the University and the Hussman Foundation, Greenhaw said.
“[The Hussman Foundation] is the largest funder of autism research, so it was a huge vote of confidence to us because they are putting their faith in our program,” she said.
The center has a lease in the City Center for the next 10 years, according to Greenhaw, and staff wants even more students to volunteer.
“Autism is really an internal experience,” she said. “That’s why it’s important to have a program like this, because it allows the adults on the spectrum to work these things out for themselves. We want them to build up these experiences, and take them outside of the center and revolutionize the community.”