WJTV News Channel 12 - Blue Ridge Autism & Achievement Center eyes second facility

Blue Ridge Autism & Achievement Center eyes second facility

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A local organization that helps children with autism and learning disabilities says it's time to expand.  The Blue Ridge Autism & Achievement Center wants to open a second facility in the Roanoke Valley to help teach students critical life skills.

Their idea is transform a house into an offsite residential life skills center where students could spend the day learning how to cook, clean, do laundry, and garden among other things.

"We really want a facility that's set up to be like that so it's not really a school," said Craig Balzer, Chairman of the BRAAC Board.  "It feels more like where they would be in their home.  And we don't [currently] have that here."

The center would be geared towards older students.  Balzer says programs for autistic and developmentally disabled teens and young adults are far and few between -- and this would give them something to help transition from school life to adult life.

"We like to think these children are moving on to another form of education that really allows them to start becoming a little more independent," said Balzer.  "And it also helps their parents and their families."

BRAAC has expressed interest in purchasing a property for sale on Olsen Road, down the street from their existing center.  The property would have to be rezoned before they could move forward with those plans.

The Roanoke County Planning Commission is slated to make a recommendation on the zone change in August.  The Board of Supervisors will then have to approve it.

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