New home for Kalamazoo Autism Center to formally open

Contact: Cheryl Roland
Photo of the Kalamazoo Autism Center.

Entrance to the new Kalamazoo Autism Center building

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—A new home for Western Michigan University's Kalamazoo Autism Center will formally open with a Saturday, Sept. 17, ceremony and a chance for members of the community to tour the center's dramatically expanded space.

Grand opening

The grand opening of the treatment center for young people diagnosed on the autism spectrum is set for 10 a.m. at the center's new location, 4200 S. Westnedge. On hand to make brief remarks and formally launch the center will be:

  • State Sen. Margaret O'Brien of Portage.
  • Dr. James Gilchrist, WMU vice provost and chief information officer.
  • Dr. Carla Koretsky, dean of the WMU College of Arts and Sciences.
  • Dr. Stephanie M. Peterson, chair of WMU's Department of Psychology.
  • Dr. Richard Malott, professor of psychology and renowned behavior analysis expert who founded the Kalamazoo Autism Center in 2008.

Part of the WMU Autism Center for Excellence, the Kalamazoo Autism Center has major funding from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. WMU's extensive efforts to offer autism services and train professionals in the field attracted a $4 million award approved by the Michigan Legislature in 2014, and some of that funding supported the renovation of the KAC's new home.

Following the ribbon cutting, those attending the Sept. 17 event will be able to tour the new facility, which was purchased by the University a year ago. The former pediatric medical center in a neighborhood setting has been completely renovated and will allow the KAC to ultimately serve up to 40 young people ages 2 to 21 who have been diagnosed on the autism spectrum. The center also will provide parent support services and be a resource on all aspects of autism assessment and treatment.

"This new facility is allowing us to expand the KAC, and it will provide us much needed space for personnel, students, children and young adults who are involved with autism treatment and research," says psychology department chair Peterson. "The timing of this expansion is extraordinary, since our department is celebrating its 50th year of focusing on behavior analysis and using that focus to train students who have pursued careers in autism treatment."

Formerly, the KAC had been operating within the Child Development Center, a well-established child care provider on Cork Street and serving about six clients at any given time. The Kalamazoo Autism Center was established in 2008 by Malott, who has been directing the facility and, in conjunction with WMU's Department of Psychology, has been providing applied behavior analysis services to southwest Michigan children with autism and providing advanced practicum training for psychology students from the University.

Kalamazoo Autism Center

According to KAC Clinical Director Dr. Kelly Kohler, herself a product of WMU’s renowned training programs for professionals, the KAC staff works one on one and in small groups with the young people it serves, providing intensive behavioral interventions to help them with the development of pre-academic, communication and daily living skills as well as social, play and vocational skills.

"The research shows that 30 to 40 hours per week of applied behavior analysis is the most effective approach, and the earlier the intervention the better," Kohler says. "Much of that early intervention work is done one on one. We'll be offering a blend of the classroom experience that is part of a normal school day with one-on-one work to address individual needs."

Kohler says the KAC will be self-sustaining, and the center accepts private pay, Medicaid and private insurance for its work. She expects slow, but steady growth in the number of young people served, predicting a client base of about 20 by the end of December.  Ultimately, as many as 40 young people and their families will be served.

For more information, contact the center at or (269) 459-7821.

For more news, arts and events, visit