Thursday, August 7, 2008

New autism school opens in Chicago

I'm a small town girl, but the big windy city called Chicago is starting to look pretty good right now. Why?

The Chicago Tribune recently ran a story appearing online about a new school (that also doubles as a research facility for autism) that opened last month. The school, housed in a new 32 million dollar facility, is called the Easter Seals Therapeutic School and Center for Research.

The school can accomodate 150 students. It will combine education with independent living skills. Although it is possible that some people in the autism community may object to the school for one reason or another, I can imagine that a long waiting list of prospective students will be in the school's future if it doesn't exist already.

Features the school building has:

  • walls and hallways designed to dampen sounds
  • high windows so that students do not get distracted by looking through lower set windows
  • schools alarms that do screech, but instead play Stars and Stripes Forever
  • air vents that do not buzz or hum
  • walls with non-glare paint (light colors)

My thoughts: This article did not include many details about the school's curriculum or much about how the school is staffed. For example, I wonder what the student to teacher ratio is and how many aides are assigned to each room.

Still though, it was interesting to read about the features of the school building. Not too many schools are built or adapted to fit the sensory issues of students who are on the spectrum. Alarms, in particular, are problematic for my child at school. He would much prefer a song to the screeching sound those darn alarms make.

If you lived in Chicago and your child had the opportunity to attend this school, would you send him or her? Please let me know via comment.


Anonymous said...

yes, i would. i would at very least check it out. i am hoping that something like this comes into being in portland OR where i live with my family, even if i have to make or help make it happen.

I am Jamie Sue! said...

Oh please let us know if you find out any more. I've been wanting to move to Chi-town for AGES but I've been afraid to pull my son out of his current education program. This would be perfect.

faridah said...

You can't just decide you can have your autistic child go there. You either have to be afford the tuition or it has to be determined by your child school district that they cannot serve your special needs. Most public schools already have some kind of autism program it has to be that your child has been in their system for a while and is not making any meaningful progress. Then they would determine the child needs a therapeutic school and clearly state this on the IEP. School districts are resistant to want to pay the tuition and transportation to transfer the child to private therapeutic school. I tried this with my child when he was because the Chicago Public School was only serving autistic kids ages 3-4 for half-day (2 1/2 hours). My son autism was from his brain condition called periventricular leukomalacia that occured during 22-28 weeks in utero. The MRI and neurologist determined this when he was 2 years old. I requested that he needed a full day curriculum and so did his clinicians. But was told by the school case manager that Chicago Public Schools did not have a full day for autism pre-k. So I sought help from a legal special education advocate to pursue this issue. The best he received was to be transferred to another school within the same school district that is considered their version of an autism therapeutic school (Beard Elementary) even though this school still typically serve pre-k autism students with only 2 1/2 hours a day, they combined both am and pm sessions to serve my son as a full day student and sent him to gym while his class teachers awaited for his pm classmates to attend. I was told that starting kindergarten all students go for a full day.

Julie L. said...

Unfortunately there seems to be all kinds of conditions for the best services no matter where one goes. It doesn't seem to matter whether one lives in a big city like Chicago or a small one like where I used to live when I wrote the post. I'm glad you found a program that was able to accomodate your child all day. It doesn't surprise me that you had to fight for it. Thank you for your comment. It was really helpful.