Red Bridge Church Donates Facility To Autism Center
By Diane Krauthamer
A building that once served the spiritual needs of the local community has recently opened its door to serving the needs of hundreds of children throughout the Kansas City area who are on the autism spectrum. After remaining in operation for more than 50 years, the Red Bridge Christian Church closed its doors for good on November 30, 2015 and donated their property, located at 10842 McGee Street in the Bridlespur subdivision, to the Kansas City Autism Training Center (KcATC).
The timing could not have been better. According to KcATC Executive Director Ron Johnson, in 2015 upwards of 40 children were receiving therapy and other services at their former facility, located in Prairie Village, with requests from approximately 200 parents per year. In their leased 5,000 – 6,000 square foot property, there was just “not adequate space for 200 kiddos,” he said. “We’ve been planning for some time to try to figure out how to provide more services for the families and for children on the spectrum.”
Meanwhile at Red Bridge Christian Church, “the membership had declined to the point that it was no longer possible to provide the needed services that were required to operate as a church,” said Richard Houston, Board Chair of the Red Bridge Christian Church. After much discussion, the congregation and the board agreed to sell the church property.
At approximately 21,000 square feet, the Red Bridge facility was perfect for KcATC to buy up, but at a price tag of nearly $1.4 million, Johnson said, the cost was too high “because a lot of the money that we’re spending today is just to cover the cost (of treatment) because their insurance doesn’t cover all of the things that are required to make sure that the outcomes are positive.”
The KCATC’s real estate company approached the church and explained the center’s dilemma and proposed that the church donate the property.
“The congregation eagerly accepted the offer and the property was ‘gifted’ on November 30, 2015, to the Kansas City Autism Training Center,” Richard Houston said.
Former Red Bridge Christian Church Minister George Flanagan emphasized the congregation’s enthusiasm about this donation. “This would leave the (KcATC) their cash resources to do any improvements and upgrading they needed to the building. We just thought it was a great outcome for the property,” Flanagan said.
KcATC provides an evidence-based treatment program for children on the autism spectrum, called Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). According to a 1968 article in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, ABA is “an applied science devoted to developing and analyzing procedures that produce effective and beneficial changes in behavior.” It is recommended by the U.S. Surgeon General, by the American Academy of Pediatrics, and a host of other medical and scientific communities children on the autism spectrum, said Johnson.
“Many times children on the spectrum have individual learning needs that are not satisfied in traditional setting like a typical child. A typical child may be able to watch a parent or sibling brush their teeth and then be able to model their example —they watch how you’re doing it and they can follow those directions. Children on the spectrum sometimes have a very difficult time with imitation. At KcATC we sometimes have to break those instructions into smaller steps and teach each small step. As the child successfully completes the smaller steps praise and reinforcement are provided: ‘First you take the cap off the toothpaste, then you pick up your toothbrush, then you pick up the toothpaste, and so on,’ and you go through each one of the necessary steps until the task of tooth brushing is successfully taught. Once you teach a skill, you monitor their continued ability to perform the skill to make sure you maintain that skill. All skills are taught using positive reinforcement,” he said.
“We’re just really excited about this opportunity to create a center that will provide evidence-based treatment and that will be able to support a lot more families in the Kansas City area,” Johnson said. For more information regarding KcATC, call (913) 432-5454.