Joey Ketterer, 23, participated in OUCARES when it began as a soccer program in 2004. He enjoys the adult bowling program and has attended every one.


Winter 2016

|  by Susan Thwing

Experts in Autism

Leading the way to understanding, greater quality of life

For more than 30 years, OU has been a leader in autism research and family support.

The services and programs of this outreach division of OU’s Center for Autism support the enhanced growth, development and quality of life for individuals with autism and their families.

The School of Education and Human Services (SEHS) and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services support OU Center for Autism’s outreach services, OUCARES.

Ask Jean Ketterer and her son Joey, now 23, if OUCARES has made an immeasurable difference.

“It has been an amazing experience,” she said. “Joey was referred to OUCARES by Rochester Community Schools in 2004 when he was 12. Joey always wants to participate in the programs ― especially the adult bowling program. He has attended every single one. It has been wonderful for him.”

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a lifelong neurological disability characterized by significant social-communication and behavioral challenges. The severity can vary greatly from one individual to another, according to Kristin Rohrbeck, director of OUCARES.

“The term ‘spectrum’ refers to this range of social, communication and behavioral challenges,” she said. “Each individual with ASD has a unique set of characteristics, and many may have difficulty socializing with others, communicating verbally or non-verbally and behaving appropriately in a variety of settings.”

Some basic facts about autism from the Michigan Autism Program:

  • In the 2014-15 school year, 17,986 students diagnosed with ASD were enrolled in
    Michigan schools. (Michigan Department of Education)
  • Approximately 50,000 individuals living in Michigan have ASD.
  • 1 in 68 children in the United States has ASD.

Which is why OUCARES is essential.

The recreational sports, social skills and life skills programs, autism camps and employable skills training enable individuals with autism to be more active and interact in the daily community.

OUCARES is only one division of OU’s Center for Autism. The Center is also comprised of an Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Autism Clinic, graduate programs, and research with individuals with autism. The Center integrates academic coursework, knowledge and research with hands-on work in the community to prepare professionals to be leaders in the autism community.

"OUCARES is proud to serve educators, caregivers and professionals who assist people with ASD,” Rohrbeck said. “Likewise, we serve the community by providing information, awareness and inclusion opportunities. Finally, we serve all individuals who are impacted by ASD by including the individual with ASD, parents, siblings, grandparents and extended family members.”

OUCARES started in 2004 “with just 20 children in a soccer program.” she continued. “We now assist more than 2,000 individuals annually from childhood through adulthood, with over 40 recreational sports, social and life skills, and employable skills programs and camps.

Representatives also go out into the community to build awareness, understanding and acceptance of autism.

“The goal is to provide education and enhance quality of life for the individual with autism and his or her family," Rohrbeck said. “It is really exciting when you can see the efforts pay off.”

For Mrs. Ketterer, it means that Joey knows someone cares.

“These kids know the people at OUCARES care about them. They understand each other and work to create a better way of life,” she said. “OUCARES has brought opportunities to Joey that he never would have had without them.”

That includes attending the North American International Auto Show.

“They arranged for the group to go prior to the majority of the crowds attending,” Ketterer said. “He never would have been able to go normally with all of the noise and distractions, but there he was, having a great time with his friends.”

Mrs. Ketterer, who also has two daughters, said the OUCARES staff is also available for crisis assistance, referrals and counseling. “Autism affects the entire family,” she said. “They provide sibling workshops, counseling ― and even just a listening ear when you need it.”

To support the program directly, visit oakland.edu/oucares

Susan Thwing is a freelance writer from Rochester Hills, Michigan.



Kristin Rohrbeck
Director, OUCARES

Kristin Rohrbeck was promoted to director of OUCARES in May 2015. She leads the direction of OUCARES, plans strategic initiatives, fundraising and dealing with budgetary responsibilities.

Kristin Rohrbeck

Rohrbeck previously served as the OUCARES program coordinator, managing the development, implementation and evaluation of more than 40 recreational programs for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Her background in diverse educational settings includes serving as a psychology instructor at
The Ohio State University and with The Learning Experience in Farmington Hills.

Rohrbeck also spent nearly three years as a behavioral therapist at The Autism Peace, where she managed an in-home behavioral therapy program for a child with autism. She was also an assistant teacher at the University of Michigan Children’s Center, a laboratory manager at the
Ann Arbor-based Center for Human Growth and Development and a graduate researcher at The Ohio State University.

Rohrbeck has presented at numerous international and national conferences on topics related to autism and child development, and authored research articles related to the way children and adults learn information.

She holds a master’s degree in developmental psychology from The Ohio State University and bachelor’s degrees in psychology and Spanish from the University of Michigan. 

Recent Research

Select Publications

Clopper, C.G., Rohrbeck, K.L., & Wagner, L. (2013). Age Perception in Adults with High-Functioning Autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

Clopper, C.G., Rohrbeck, K.L., & Wagner, L. (2012). Dialect Perception in Adults with High-Functioning Autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

Select Presentations

Rohrbeck, K.L. & Sweeney, K. (2014). Employable Skills Programs for Adolescents and Adults with ASD. Presentation at the Michigan Association for Community Mental Health Boards Fall Conference, Traverse City, Michigan.

Rohrbeck, K.L., Clopper, C.G., & Wagner, L. (May 2010). Perceptual Dialect Classification by Adults with High-Functioning Autism. Poster presented at the International Meeting for Autism Research annual meeting, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Rohrbeck, K.L., Clopper, C.G., & Wagner, L. (May 2009). Dialect Sorting by Adults with High-Functioning Autism. Poster presented at The Ohio State University’s Center for Cognitive Science Cognition Fest, Columbus, Ohio.

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