When Rachelle Vartanian, a local mother and special education teacher, was looking for a social skills group for her son who had been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, she couldn’t find it. So Vartanian, with over 20 years of teaching experience, decided to form one herself.
In 2015, Vartanian opened the Living and Learning Enrichment Center in downtown Northville. The nonprofit organization helps children, adults, and families navigate through life with autism and other challenges by providing classes, workshops and opportunities for socialization and fellowship. The center focuses on social skills and job skills training, as well as support groups for caregivers.
The center’s staff includes music therapists, art therapists and professionals who are committed to improving and enriching the lives of special needs children and adults.
“We have an amazing staff! Everyone has several degrees and experience working with people who have challenges. Almost everyone who works here has a child with a special need,” says Vartanian. “The people who work at Living and Learning want to be here.”
Special programs for
Recently, the center expanded its programming to offer classes for a variety of interests. The new offerings include a Gamers’ Club, Drawing and Sketching Class, Crafting and Creating Class, Anime Club, Sensory Art, and The Rap, an adult men’s social group. Friday and Saturday nights are designated hang-out nights, where participants can eat together, play games and socialize.
“We decided to expand the program lineup at Living and Learning because we realized many of our clients would benefit from groups that were more intimate in size and focused on their special interests,” Vartanian explained. “For example, there is a huge population of people who enjoy Anime. By having that group, it allows them to explore this in a safe environment with others who share this same level of excitement, which benefits everyone in the community.”
With over 200 families currently enrolled at the Center, Vartanian feels that the expanded programming is having a positive impact on the community.
“We work with many types of people and many types of challenges. One of the best things we have at Living and Learning is a free program offered every first Wednesday of the month. It’s a women’s support group. We do a nice job getting excellent speakers to come out and share information with our parents. We want to create an environment where you can call and ask us for help on something and we can give you that help,” Vartanian said.
A bright future for 2018
In January, the Center moved to a new location on Griswold Street in downtown Northville. The new “bigger and better” facility comes equipped with a full kitchen, and offers a large serene park-like setting for outdoor activities. Vartanian is encouraged that this location will allow the Center to expand its course offerings even more in the new year.
For more information on the Living and Learning Enrichment Center, call 248-308-3592 or visit livingandlearningcenter.org.