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St. Cloud, MN: University opens autism center to provide ABA, train therapists

Dec 11, 2023, St. Cloud (MN) Today: Couple makes Autism Discovery Center a reality for SCSU

A St. Cloud State University alumna and her husband have made a gift that will benefit not just SCSU, but the regional community as well.

The Linda ’74 and Richard Offerdahl Autism Discovery Center was publicly announced April 26 inside St. Cloud State University’s Brown Hall. The Autism Discovery Center aims to teach clinicians of all levels and backgrounds proper treatments for clients and their families in central Minnesota and beyond. Students of Applied Behavior Analysis at SCSU will be involved in all services provided at the Center, supervised by doctoral-level and nationally certified faculty. Students will receive hands-on training in running sessions, developing programs, collecting data, evaluating progress, meeting with families and training other student clinicians.

“Most importantly, the OADC is here for families and autistic children,” said Dr. Odessa Luna, Assistant Professor of Applied Behavior Analysis at SCSU. “The OADC will be a source of relief for families in the St. Cloud area who have been waiting desperately for services. With time, the OADC will build through its graduates more service opportunities for autistic children in the region and the state, extending its reach well beyond its walls.”

Linda, who earned her bachelor’s in elementary education from St. Cloud State, and Richard Offerdahl said they have “worked to make the world a better place” throughout their lives, and their $1 million gift to St. Cloud State University to establish the Autism Discovery Center was made with that in mind. In their visits to SCSU, they were impressed with the Applied Behavior Analysis program and said they have long felt that more resources needed to be provided to those on the autism spectrum….

Dr. Shonda Craft, Dean of the College of Health and Wellness Professions at SCSU, said an autism clinic has been a dream for the Applied Behavior Analysis department for years....

According to Dr. Robbyn Wacker, President of St. Cloud State, the Center aligns with SCSU’s It’s Time framework and highlights the importance of individualized attention to students and how it can be critical to their success — whether they’re children with autism receiving services to help them live their lives to the fullest extent, or St. Cloud State students being mentored and educated by highly qualified teacher-scholars dedicated to helping them achieve their potential.

“There is a great need in our region for the services that the Center will provide and a growing need for more responsible, caring practitioners and leaders in this field,” President Wacker said. “The work students complete in the Center will give them real-world experience in applying what they learn in the classroom. Their hands-on experience at the Center will prepare them to develop respect for the tremendous effect their work will have on the children and families they come in contact with.”…


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