Ortonville senior Katrina Hibbs is one of 15 Central Michigan University students who teaches Micah Nickel, 6, fundamental social skills to help treat his autism. For Hibbs, it started out as a volunteer job through the School of Education at Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, Mich. Although, her time spent with Micah has grown to taught her what she wants to do after graduation. In 2009, Micah’s parents, Jennifer and Chris Nickel, contacted Connections that Count, the special education active service learning program offered by CMU that brings student volunteers into local homes. The Nickel family taught students to use the Autism Treatment Center’s Son-Rise Program to develop Micah’s four social essentials: Eye contact, communication, interactive attention span and flexibility. For two hours a day, five days a week, Micah learns various social skills without realizing it through activities in which students play with him that slowly bring him out of his “world.” In the beginning, Micah’s social skills ranked between a two and three out of five, and now they rank between a four and a five out of five. “It’s amazing the progress he’s made in two years,” Hibbs said. “He’s gone from being a shy boy who wouldn’t talk or touch you, to outgoing and social.” Micah is not the only child benefitting from the program. Connections that Count reaches out to children with disabilities and their families in Mount Pleasant, recommended by teachers in public schools and the health department. And although the program is associated with CMU’s special education program, all committed CMU students can volunteer, no matter what they are studying.