BRIGHTON — A major expansion at the Oxford Recovery Center promises to offer children with autism safe and controlled experiences in “real-world” situations.
Officials with the organization say The Village of ORC at the Oxford Recovery Center, the first such center in the United States, is designed to bring therapy and hands-on experience together for those who struggle with person-to-person interactions.
Founder and CEO Tami Peterson said the objective is to create real-world scenarios for children and young adults so they will know how to behave when confronted with similar circumstances in everyday life.
“We created the real world environment the best we could,” Peterson said. “Kids with autism deserve the best and we really do believe that and practice that.”
Peterson said children with autism don’t interpret the difference between real and fake situations well, so it’s difficult for them to pretend.
The organization hosted a grand opening on Saturday, June 11 at 7030 Whitmore Lake Road. The $12-million, 35,000-square-foot building took more than a year to complete.
“I’ll get emotional. I was in awe to be able to move into this building. I literally never thought we would use it. God says he always makes things more immeasurably beyond our belief. I say I dream small, God dreams big,” Peterson said. “He gave me the vision. I never believed that this was planned. I get to watch people get their lives back every day and God chose me to do this. Clearly he does not choose people who are equipped he equips those he chooses.”
The Village of ORC includes 12 functioning “retail stores,” as well as a park featuring a road, curbs, sidewalks, benches, street lamps, stoplights, cross walks and an indoor playscape.
The 12 stores include a grocery store, smoothie station, toy jungle, village café, coffee house, pet store, Dino Dentistry, gift shop, a Huntington Bank ATM and hair salon. All proceeds go toward the Oxford Kids Foundation.
The retail stores are open to the public, and operated by people from the Creating Opportunities Maximizing Potential Achieving Successful Skills program. According to Peterson, COMPASS is a six-month program for young adults who have a degree or a diploma, are diagnosed with autism and are seeking employment.
Those adults enter the program because they are having trouble keeping jobs because of autism-associated behaviors. According to Peterson, only 8% of young adults with autism have meaningful employment. The COMPASS program allows individuals to self assess and work on goals.
“We can contrive scenarios in our different stores as they are spending time working in those stores,” Peterson said.
Children in the Autism Recovery Through Synergy program participating in ABA therapy, such as speech, occupational and physical therapy, can work on their daily goals, too.
Goals may include such things as standing in line at a grocery store, learning how to order their own food or getting their teeth cleaned at the dentist.
The stores can be used to practice executive functioning skills, intrapersonal skills and the opportunity to problem solve real world scenarios, according to Peterson.
The park provides a way to teach children how to behave in a park, as well as what to do on a sidewalk or in a cross walk.
Other aspects of the expansion include a commercial kitchen where a trained chef will prepare lunches, multiple treatment rooms, a water room, and an art and music room.
The water room can help clients become desensitized to common sensory aversions like getting their hair or face wet. It can also simulate a thunderstorm to get clients comfortable with the sounds that come from storms.
The History of the Oxford Recovery Center
In addition to treatment for autism-related issues, ORC offers physical, occupational and speech therapy, as well as, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, neurofeedback therapy and medical lab testing. They provide treatment for issues related to cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, stroke, Parkinson’s and other conditions.
Peterson founded the center in 2008 after her daughter, JeAnnah Powell, responded well to hyperbaric oxygen therapy after contracting viral encephalitis in 2006 when she was 9.
The center was first located in 1,800-square-foot space in South Lyon. Additionally, they have a location in Troy. The ORC later expanded into a 24,000-square-foot facility in Brighton in 2018.
Xander Salsitz, who performed as a saxophonist at the grand opening, has been a client and said he’s benefited from the center.
In January 2012, at 8 years old, Salsitz was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome, a full deletion of chromosome 7 in the bone marrow stem cell, which quickly led to complete bone marrow failure.
After two failed transplants, his family stumbled onto the hyperbaric oxygen therapy in South Lyon.
“We’re very grateful and I did (hyperbaric oxygen treatments) over 760 times, I probably wouldn’t be standing here today if it wasn’t for Tami,” he said.
Salsitz is set to be a freshman at the University of Michigan in the fall, where he will seek a bachelor’s degree in music theory, focusing on jazz and contemporary improvisation.
Contact Livingston Daily reporter Patricia Alvord at firstname.lastname@example.org about news coverage.