WVU grads open autism center in Morgantown

MONONGALIA COUNTY, W. Va (WDTV) - Last year, Haley Ramsey and her two friends graduated from West Virginia University certified in applied behavior analysis, or ABA, a type of therapy for autistic children.

But the three graduates didn't want to have to leave the state to pursue their careers.

"And they wanted to be able to stay here in West Virginia to provide services for children with autism."

So with the help of Haley's parents, they were able to create the Key Learning Autism Center

"So my husband and I decided that we would help finance the clinic to get them started so they could stay here," said Haley's mom Sherry Ramsey, the owner and director for Key Learning Autism Center

Not only did the WVU grads want to stay in the state because it was their home, they also saw the intense needs for these types of professionals in West Virginia.

"We just want to increase that number," Sherry Ramsey said "Because the rates of autism keep increasing but we're not necessarily increasing therapists at a rate that keeps up."

If families do seek treatment in the state they are often put on a waiting list, keeping their children from receiving the care they need at a crucial time.

"They'll sit on wait lists and they'll age out (of the program)," said Ramsey "And the key to this is early, early detection, diagnosis, early intervention."

The amount of time spent working at the center is different based on the needs of each individual child.

"Some kids would come here maybe in lieu of preschool or early elementary school," Ramsey said "Or they would do this in combination, maybe spend a couple days here, a couple days in school,"

In the future, they hope to team up with college students in the field to encourage them to continue the work here.

"We are going to be a site for WVU students and possibly other colleges in the area that want to do internships as well, hoping that they will then have an interest sparked to pursue this at a graduate level and then as a professional," said Ramsey.

Currently, Key Learning is planning on seeing 15 children and they already have a waiting list.

After an open house brought out over a hundred people, Ramsey says they feel supported as they continue their work.

"Overwhelming, overwhelming support."