Our Story

Recognizing the benefits of a strong community-university partnership, the concept of the Clinical Education Complex (CEC) at Western Kentucky University (WKU) began in 2003 when a group of concerned parents and grandparents came together to ensure that needed services for their families were available in the Bowling Green / Warren County area.  The University acknowledged the need for trained autism professionals in its community, which led to the creation of the CEC in 2006 to support children from age-2 through high school and their families.  The Suzanne Vitale Clinical Education Complex (CEC) is an interdisciplinary, integrated clinical program that provides a continuum of services to families and individuals with developmental disabilities.  The CEC also serves as a training site for WKU students majoring in a variety of disciplines.


An integral part of the CEC, the Kelly Autism Program (KAP) was established in 2002 when John and Linda Kelly saw how their daughter, a middle-school student with Autism, lacked support and socialization outside of school and home – she simply needed something more.


The Kellys, alongside WKU, started KAP to not only to meet the support needs of their daughter, but also of other students with similar needs. KAP started with eight participants, and in less than six years grew to over 100, with parents driving as far as 110 miles away to receive KAP services.  The KAP Circle of Support was implemented in 2002, as an innovative program designed specifically for WKU college students with Autism.  KAP was profiled in the New York Times (2016) for its impressive variety of resources, programming, and networks for its students with Autism Spectrum Disorder.


After providing Autism services for over a decade to a wide variety of children and youth, ranging from toddlers to teenagers to college students, CEC staff and supporters realized the need for continued services and supports after participants had graduated from high school or college.  In 2015, the CEC Executive Director, Dr. Mary Lloyd Moore, along with pioneering supporters John & Linda Kelly and Suzanne Vitale, began dreaming and planning on how to develop the next phase of the CEC . . . a program to support young adults as they transition to living and working in the community.  The Kelly’s and Suzanne Vitale have been at the forefront of facilitating Autism services in Southcentral Kentucky for nearly two decades.


Fast-forward to October 24, 2019 – after nearly five years of thoughtful planning, research, and support-building, the University, CEC, and community supporters celebrated the ground-breaking for LifeWorks @ WKU – a new and innovative two-year residential program for individuals age 21 and older with Autism who want to enter the workforce and pursue independent living.    The administrative and classroom facilities and residential complex (Julie & Gary Ransdell Living & Learning Community) were fully completed in April 2020.  The LifeWorks @ WKU program launched its first cohort in Fall 2020.