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‘Puzzle Pieces’ launches early intervention autism center to meet Owensboro’s growing needs

Puzzle Pieces Inc.

An Owensboro nonprofit that assists those with intellectual disabilities is expanding to meet community needs.

Puzzle Pieces was founded in 2012 by current Executive Director Amanda Owen, whose brother has a rare chromosomal disorder.

Owen left her job as a full-time special education teacher to open Puzzle Pieces when she felt her brother and her students did not have a space to socialize with peers and learn skills for lifelong success.

“The intention behind that was to create a space for those individuals with disabilities to have the opportunity to learn skills when they graduate from high school and during after-school summer programs,” Owen told WKU Public Radio.

The team of over 100 helps those with intellectual disabilities learn about independence, life skills, community access, and involvement.

“We’ve grown over the years to be able to now offer a lot of different services and resources to over 430 individuals with disabilities ranging from all different levels and all different ages,” Owen added.

She noted the organization is growing even more heading into 2024 by expanding to include an early intervention center for those with autism.

The program will be targeted at those with autism aged 21 and younger. Participants will receive help enrolling in post-secondary education along with job placement within the community.

Additionally, the center will be housed in a new building, which will be used to accommodate the needs of other programs as well.

“We’re at capacity now in our current building. We have about 120 people on our waiting list, so with the expansion, it will allow us to serve more clients and grow to meet the growing needs of those with autism,” Owen said.

The organization is currently renovating a building next to their current location on New Hartford Rd., which Owen hopes to have open by Feb. 1.

While preparing to open a new building, the organization is also getting ready for their annual fundraiser, the “Owensboro Lip Sync Battle," in which local businesses, schools, and civic groups go head-to-head in front of a mic.

“I would never have dreamed six years ago how much the Lip Sync Battle would take off,” Owen said. “It’s now the largest event in Owensboro, Kentucky.”

She added that this will be the sixth year for the event, which will help support Puzzle Pieces’ operational costs and new expansion.

“It’s probably our most diverse lineup that we’ve ever had that we pride ourselves on. I always say that Puzzle Pieces is not just a voice for those with disabilities, but a voice for all. No matter who is taking the stage this year, I think it really represents all people, and we are very proud of that.”

The Owensboro Lip Sync Battle will be held on Thursday, Jan. 11, at the Owensboro Convention Center.

More information about the event and organization can be found online at the Puzzle Pieces website and Facebook page.