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Specıal Parent CHICAGO



Gold medal inspiration 100+


Special camps for special kids


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The Special Recreation Network of Illinois (SRANI) provides information on the 34 cooperative agencies throughout Illinois called Special Recreation Associations (SRAs). These SRAs deliver a variety of community-based recreation services to children, teens and adults with disabilities through a cooperative agreement with their member park districts and recreation agencies. For a statewide listing of SRANI agencies, see our display ad in the Resource Directory or visit

SPECIAL RECREATION Your child will explore whole new worlds!

• Adaptive Sports • Aquatics • Cultural Arts • Field Trips

• Inclusion • Paralympic Sports • Social Clubs

• Special Events • Special Olympics • Summer Camps

• Unified Sports • Vacation Trips • Weekly Programs

Providing programs that will enhance socialization skills, improve self-help skills, build self-esteem, and develop fine and gross motor skills.

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The AHSS Early Learners Group is a structured, small group, classroom environment tailored specifically to help your child begin learning age-appropriate skills that will develop their social, academic, and transitional abilities. Designed for those students who are not quite ready for, or who are struggling in, a traditional classroom. AHSS uses evidence-based methodologies to promote skill acquisition that enhances the individual therapy your child receives. The curriculum and goals for each Learners Group are developed based on the specific needs of each child. By providing structured training, in a group setting, each child can learn the needed skills to more fully participate in future outside social and academic situations.

AHSS Autism Center 2


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STAFF EDITORS Elizabeth Diffin, Tamara L. O’Shaughnessy DIGITAL EDITOR Jackie McGoey ASSISTANT DIGITAL CONTENT EDITOR Katina Beniaris ART DIRECTOR Claire Innes EDITORIAL DESIGNERS Jaquinete Baldwin, Javier Govea CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Danielle Braff, Megan Murray Elsener CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER Thomas Kubik



Marriage survival

DISPLAY AD SALES Annette Coffee, Christine Griffith, Lourdes Nicholls, Karen Skinner

Special needs can be tough on couples but not all has to be lost



Camp time!


Summer camp options for kids with special needs


Fun for all

AD DESIGN Debbie Becker, Mark Moroney

Places for all abilities to be who they are


IN OUR SHOES 5 Meet two local moms, one who is creating a judgment-free zone and another one worried about her son and other teens making friends, plus how to create easy sensory boxes and other news you can use





ON THE COVER Cover family: Brittany and Michael Reyes and kids Zoe and Zander, Chicago Photographer: Thomas Kubik of TK Photography Design: Claire Innes

Gold medalist in the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games, Tommy Shimoda inspires all who meet him.


CONTACT PHONE (708) 386-5555 EDITORIAL ADVERTISING CIRCULATION Our offices are at 141 S. Oak Park Ave., Oak Park, Illinois 60302. © 2018 Wednesday Journal, Inc. All rights reserved. |

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Questions? Interest in learning more about Life’s Plan Trust Services? Contact Scott Nixon, Executive Director




Specıal Parent Winter 2018 CHICAGO

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In Our Shoes

Photo by Ren’s View Photography

From hard times to soft serve B arbara Murphy knows what it’s like to endure the stares from people who just don’t get what life with a child with special needs is like. A foster parent for years to daughter Sifeta, she was on an upward trajectory at her job at Xerox. But when her son, John, “came thrashing into the world,” that all changed, she says. John was born with a right sided Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia and ended up in the hospital for 13 months. She quit her job to be with him every day. When he finally came home, he was on a ventilator and in and out of the hospital. He developed epilepsy and was diagnosed with autism at 9. These days Facebook reminds her of those early times. “When memories pop up, I think, oh that was a hard day, but he was so beautiful, I shared the photo.” She’s felt the isolation and people’s stares over the years. In restaurants, she’s had people at nearby tables leave because of John, now 12. “It was hard being in public with him because people judged us.

Everyone thinks they can give their opinion on how to parent,” she says. On first glance, you wouldn’t spot his special needs. She remembers one “very hard day” wishing for a place to go where she didn’t have to apologize for her son’s behavior. She sat in her own business, Josi’s Frozen Yogurt, for hours that day. Then an idea came to her. She created ‘No Apology Sundays’ to build a welcoming space for families with special needs. The third Sunday of every month, from 1-3 p.m., the lights and music go down and families can enjoy a day out with frozen yogurt, more than 50 toppings to choose from, board games, a kids’ corner and even a skeleton named Richard. Best of all, no apologies. She also now offers internships for kids at Vaughn Occupational High School for students with special needs to practice work skills, something she hopes catches on with other businesses. Find Josi’s at 4032 N. Milwaukee Ave., in Chicago’s Portage Park neighborhood.

In Mom’s Words Best advice ever received: Be kind to yourself. As John’s mother, I have saved his life, given CPR and stood by his bedside for hours. But I give myself a hard time for sleeping in, working late, not getting the housework done or not keeping in touch with friends. Learn to be as kind to ourselves as we are to others. Worst day: The first seizure John had. He was 2 and considered “failure to thrive.” His little body seized for more than eight hours. It was the worst night of our lives watching him go through that, watching the hospital staff circle around him trying to save him. I still have nightmares; I call it ‘medical PTSD.’ Advice for other parents: Build your tribe!! You are going to lose friends and meet some new amazing friends. Build your tribe of special needs parents to talk to, support and network with. We cannot do this alone. You are not alone! Biggest hope for the future: That my son will be taken care of when I am gone. We are in the process of starting a Special Needs Trust and Will to ensure our child will be taken care of if something happens to my husband or me. It’s a hard process to go through, but in the end, I hope it gives us a little peace of mind. |

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Serving Chicagoland’s











SUMMER 2018 THURSDAY, JULY 19, 2018 • 9am to 4pm


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Navy Pier • 600 East Grand Avenue, Festival Hall B To learn more call 311(Voice/TTY) or check Details coming soon!

City ofChicago Rahm Emanuel, Mayor Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities Karen Tamley, Commissioner



Specıal Parent Winter 2018 | Chicago’s premier exposition of products and services for people with disabilities CHICAGO

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The damage of indifference Mom wishes for better for teens with special needs BY DIANE MAYER CHRISTIANSEN


y son had a small group of friends who had known him since elementary school. They were aware of his high functioning autism and helped him model appropriate behaviors. They accepted him. But as the years passed, these friends began to branch out, joining clubs and dating. Jackie began to lose touch, and loneliness set in. It was inevitable, something I had worried about for years. As his sophomore year began, Jackie decided to put an effort into meeting new people. It can be a real challenge for ASD children to make the first move. Jackie hoped for one new friend. He needed to have someone in each class he could go to or study with, to just feel as if he belonged. What he received was indifference. As his mother, I could imagine what was going on in those classrooms: Jackie’s ASD creeping out, showing itself in his inability to switch topics or his immature jokes. He can be goofy and strange, and lacks an awareness of personal space boundaries. These were all behaviors that his closest friends understood and appreciated, but day after day he came home deflated until he finally spiraled into a deep depression. He cried for hours, telling me how lonely he was. His attempts to be friendly were met with strange looks and ended with no one wanting to occupy the desk next to him. I was heartbroken. Had inclusion really been the right way to go? It can be a difficult decision to make. On one

hand, Jackie is intelligent. He is in advanced classes and has a great GPA. On the other hand, dealing with these social issues may eventually negatively impact his grades. But I always come back to the same thought: he can’t exclude himself from the real world. The thing is, I never counted on indifference being the problem. With bullies, it’s easier. At least when someone is blatantly mean, you can point the finger and say, “that kid kicked me” or “that kid called me a bad name.” All the negativity is directed to the bully and you can reconcile that negativity. But with indifference, the negativity is cycled back to the child being ignored. Jackie found himself wondering what he had done wrong. He questioned whether he was a good person and doubted that he would ever be accepted and loved. It was tormenting to watch. After several meetings with our case manager, we found a solution. We decided to lighten his course load and find more opportunities for a break during the day. But the solutions had little to do with the deeper issue, that of kindness and acceptance of others. Looking back to freshman year, I see now how this could have been avoided. During our first IEP meeting, it was made clear that the school didn’t place any children with their friends. The intention was to encourage students to make new friends and to teach them to adjust to new environments. I remember sitting in that meeting feeling my heart drop, worried about what this policy might do to Jackie. The truth is, apart from the social

“Jackie found himself wonder ing what he had done wrong. He questioned whether he was a good person and doubted that he would ever be accepted and loved.” work staff, the school staff doesn’t always think about the big picture when dealing with special needs children, especially as they enter higher education. We are always talking about cyber threats and closet bullies and we forget that indifference is another form of hurt, not only for children on the spectrum but for every child who feels like they don’t fit in. It promotes exclusion and it wreaks havoc on self-esteem. It makes me wonder about all the other kids who face the same thing but don’t know how to talk about it. Wouldn’t it be great if, as a society, we stopped worrying about test scores and started thinking about teaching our children how to be more socially aware and drive them to make healthy relationships that include everyone? |

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Transforming Young Lives Special Needs children usually have irregular brainwave patterns. Early treatment started with Neurofeedback can re-balance those brainwave patterns, and help normal development succeed.

Call The Discovery Clinic in Glenview at 847-901-0909 to schedule a consultation or an evaluation. 8


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Sensory fun for littles 5 ideas to mix up for playtime BY CHERYL EUGENIO


ooking for a way to keep your littles entertained while also engaging them in learning? Sensory bins make learning fun and can be quite versatile. You can incorporate any theme. Plus, you can make a sensory bin with almost anything! I scoured Pinterest for ideas, keeping in mind a few requirements: One: Easy. These bins need to be put together in less than five minutes. Two: Inexpensive. Items could be found at home or at your favorite dollar store. Three: FUN! We need to keep the littles entertained, right? First things first, you’ll need a plastic container to hold the items. Sizes range from shoebox size to those plastic containers that can fit under the bed. Just make sure the container is shallow enough so kids can reach the items, but not too shallow so that everything just spills out. Now for the fun part, adding all the items to the box! I’ve listed suggested items to include but the best thing about sensory bins is that you can mix and match items. Don’t have an item? No problem! Substitute with something you have on hand. The possibilities are endless. Now go ahead and have fun!

Shaving cream sensory bin Items needed: Shaving cream, paint and foam letters (or any objects you want to hide in foam) The fun: Spray the shaving cream in the bin, add a few items to hide, then have your little artist add paint. Watch the magic happen when the colors mix.

Dinosaur discovery sensory bin

Life on the farm sensory bin

Items needed: Cloud Dough (8 cups of flour, 1 cup vegetable oil), dinosaurs, dinosaur book (optional) and paint brush The fun: Have a dino lover? They will have fun digging for dinosaurs. Make the cloud dough, then hide the dinosaurs. Give your little paleontologist a brush and have them look for the dinosaurs. While they’re busy digging, read a dinosaur-themed book such as Curious George’s Dinosaur Discovery.

Items needed: Popcorn kernels, trucks/tractors, little farm animals, rubber duckies (optional) and measuring cups The fun: Has your child ever been in a corn pit? This is the same exact concept, except mini-sized. Have them use the measuring spoons/cups to pour kernels into the truck, and find their favorite farm animals roaming about. Write numbers or letters underneath each rubber ducky for an added learning experience.

Ice cream sensory bin Items needed: Cotton balls, pretend (or real) ice cream cones, small bowls, sequins and pretend (or real) ice cream scoop The fun: Who doesn’t love ice cream? Kids can pretend to scoop their own ice cream cotton balls into small bowls or ice cream cones. If you don’t have pretend ice cream cones, make some with cardstock or use real cones. Don’t forget to have them scoop sprinkles (sequins) on to their ice cream creation.

Insect sensory bin Items needed: Black beans, plastic bugs and plastic shovel The fun: For some reason, kids are so fascinated by bugs. They’ll love this bug-tastic sensory bin! Grab some black beans (or any beans for that matter) as your pretend dirt, and hide those plastic buggy critters. Have them shovel them out and repeat. Cheryl Eugenio is a Chicago area mom of two and a blogger at ChicagoParent. com. |

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Creatively Removing Life’s Obstacles

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Come play at the Special Needs Playdate Annual fun event set for Feb. 11


ere’s one way to bust the wintertime blahs while showing the kids some love: the second annual Chicago Parent Special Needs Playdate. The Playdate lets kids with special needs and their siblings get their wiggles out while mom and dad gather great info on therapies, camps, schools, hospital programs and more. Performances by the Royal Princess Parties, Mary Macaroni, Buddha Belly Yoga and Bubbles Academy will get kids singing, while everyone’s fave game gurus, The Playground Games, will have them moving with a bouncy castle and inflatable slide. Mickey and Minnie will also appear thanks to Happy Kids Chicago. Fun-loving Skates, the Chicago Wolves mascot who has a special love for kids with special needs, will be on hand, and there will be a quiet room for those needing a rest or sensory break. DePaul College Prep has a free parking lot and free street parking.

Special Needs Playdate Entertainment schedule u 11 a.m. Happy Kids Chicago, Inc. character visit u 11:30 a.m. Mary Macaroni u 12 p.m. Buddha Belly Kids Yoga u 1 p.m. Princess and Superhero character visits from Royal Princess Parties u 1:30 p.m. Bubbles Academy

u 10 a.m.3 p.m. Feb. 11 u DePaul College Prep, 3633 N. California Ave., Chicago u Tickets are $5 for kids 314, free for parents and kids 2 and younger. Head to Chicago Parent’s Facebook Page for easy access to tickets.

Fidget spinner alternatives


hen fidget spinners went viral last year and every kid had to have one, schools began banning them from the classroom. Unfortunately, that left kids with special needs who need them as a coping tool without them, too. So Brain Balance Achievement Centers came up with some suggestions for silent alternatives for kids with ADHD. 1 Kneaded erasers Not only will these erase pencil marks, the kneading keeps hands in motion.

2 Sand-filled stress balls The small, tough sandfilled balloons are easy to keep in a desk. Even adults like them. 3 Chair rubber bands These thick rubber bands around the front chair legs give kids the ability to fidget with their feet, leaving hands free for taking notes.

4 Markers and paper Kids can quietly doodle while listening to the teacher. |

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New Shriners app fills Illinois void


reg Greco returned to school 7 inches taller this year. But it wasn’t due to the usual growth spurt teen boys experience; Greg spent his summer at Shriners Hospital in Chicago in halo traction after two spinal fusions to correct scoliosis. “Now I can tower over everyone,” jokes the 16-year-old high school junior. His friends, he says, thinks it’s pretty cool. Best of all, though, is that he is rid of the constant pain that prevented him from doing things with his friends, walking or even standing for more than five minutes. “I don’t even know how I managed to get through that,” he says. When it comes to scoliosis, Illinois no longer requires schools

to conduct routine checks, leaving it up to parents and doctors. The problem is that scoliosis presents itself during a time when well-child visits tend to fall off, around ages 10-15, says Molly Grant, a certified nurse practitioner at Shriners Hospitals and an Oak Park mom. Up to 9 million people have scoliosis and the sooner it is diagnosed, the more options there are for treatment, she says. Knowing that, Shriners developed SpineScreen, a free, easy-to-use app, in both English and Spanish, that parents can use at home to check for abnormal curves in their kid’s spine. Shriners has long been a national leader in treatment of

u SpineScreen is available in the Apple Store and Google Play. It is free. u shriners

scoliosis. How it works: Simply open the app and hold the smartphone as it glides down a child’s spine. It notes abnormal curves that might signal that a visit to the doctor is in order. Grant, like most busy moms who can lose track of time, also likes that reminders can be set in the app to check again in six

months to a year. She is on a mission to make sure everyone knows about the app to avoid any abnormal curves from getting worse and for getting kids treated sooner. Greg’s best advice: Don’t wait. “Use the resources that they have, especially now that they are so accessible.”

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The Sheltons

Shriners unveils new podcast

Shriners Hospital is tapping into podcasts to help parents find the best info about what to expect on their child’s medical journey. Episodes of the new series, Pediatric Specialty Care Spotlight, are about 10 minutes long and are available at, iTunes and iHeartRadio. A new podcast comes out every two weeks. To date, the hospital has shared podcasts on scoliosis treatments, childhood arthritis, cleft lip and palate, limb differences and spinal cord injury rehab.

Update: Krabbe testing now in place Local mom Laura Shelton, who was featured in the summer issue of Chicago Special Parent, spent much of 2017 advocating for newborn screenings for Krabbe disease. Even though newborn testing for Krabbe disease was required statewide in 2007, the testing was never implemented. In the fall, after the Chicago Tribune shed light on the years of red tape delaying the testing, Shelton and other families met at the Illinois State Capitol for a hearing before the Health Care Availability and Accessibility Committee. They heard us, Shelton says. Testing began Dec. 11. If detected early, stem cell transplants can change babies’ lives. Shelton says she found a lot of open arms among other Krabbe disease advocates. “I don’t want anyone else to endure the pain and struggles you see your child go through. It is just hard to watch your child struggle to breathe and be in pain,” she says. The testing came too late for Shelton’s baby, Lana, who died on Jan. 1 from the disease.

Target makes adaptive clothes more accessible Target’s kids’ clothing line Cat & Jack has launched new adaptive apparel made specially for kids and toddlers with disabilities. While the line had has previously offered sensory-friendly pieces featuring tagless and flat seam styles, the new apparel features 40 pieces with side and back snap and zip closures, and hidden openings for abdominal access. The pieces for boys and girls, based off the current designs in the Cat & Jack collection that kids are already wearing, include puffer jackets, longsleeve tees, short-sleeve tees, hooded sweatshirts, leggings and bodysuits. |

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Lost? New tracker can help The panic-filled moment you realize your kid is missing is unfortunately unforgettable. That’s what prompted John Renaldi to build a team to create a tracker that would be good enough for their own families. The result is the Jiobit Smart Tag, a new wearable tracker smaller than an AA battery that pairs with an app to keep kids and parents connected. Jiobit improves on the

tracking abilities by using different radio frequencies and a hybrid network. This allows the company to find the best signal even if the family is in a situation with no cellular coverage and the child has gotten too far away, says Chicago mom of four boys, Lindsay Slutzky, a member of the team. Plus, they improved on the battery life; it lasts at least a week before needing a charge. |

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Marriage survival Special needs can be tough touggh on on couples but not all has to be lost

Brittany and Michael Reyes of Chicago are making their marriage work while raising Zoe and Zander.



ighty percent. That’s the number that’s been whispered on playgrounds, texted from one worried parent to another, shouted between spouses. It’s the percentage of marriages believed to fail when a child with special needs is involved. 16


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But while that 80 percent statistic is an urban legend, it’s no doubt that couples struggle when special needs are in the picture. A 2010 study found that parents of children on the autism spectrum had a higher rate of divorce than the comparison group: 24 percent versus 14 percent. The relatively high rate of divorce for the special needs group remained high until their child reached early adulthood, while it decreased with the other group when their child turned 8.

Hospital visits, therapists to juggle and added expenses, along with all the surprises that special needs bring, can add stress to a marriage. “Parents of children who have increased needs often have little left in the tank emotionally, and sometimes physically, to give back to their partner,” says Crystal Rice, a therapeutic consultant at Insieme Consulting, a relationship therapy and counseling company based in Pennsylvania and Maryland. “All those healthy relationship tools we use when there’s little

stress—things like bargaining, compromise, active listening— become casualties in a brain focused on ensuring that our children are safe and cared for.” At the same time, regular parenting issues, like following a particular schedule or enforcing a consequence, become trickier. When a couple has a child with special needs, there is most likely going to be more rules and recommendations to follow, and the stakes probably feel higher. “So disagreements regarding parenting differences might feel more intense,” says


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Emily Bhandari, a Chicago psychotherapist. But relationships can survive and thrive when there’s a child with special needs involved.

Making it work Brittany and Michael Reyes have been married for nine years, with two children who have special needs. Their 7-year-old, Zander, has a sensory processing disorder. Feeding is an issue because of textures and smells, and when he comes home from school, he’s totally stir crazy. But it’s their 5-year-old daughter, Zoe, who has the major health problems. She was born with heterotaxy syndrome, an incredibly rare birth defect, where most of the organs are in irregular places inside the body. Zoe has heart defects, and her heart was in the center of her chest when she was born. She had five spleens, but none of them worked, and she had a blockage in her small intestines. “I went through a huge depression,” says the University Village mother. “I didn’t buy anything pink, I didn’t want to get her room ready. I was always afraid of death,” she says of her pregnancy. She was advised to terminate four times. When Zoe was 5 days old, she had her first surgery, and since then, Reyes has had to watch her daughter flatline. For the first 2½ years of her life, Zoe was in and out of the hospital almost daily. “Any time she’s in the hospital, it throws our whole family off,” Reyes says. “But since we’ve been doing this for five and a half years, we have a routine.” They have to have a routine, actually, or else it’ll disrupt her son’s well-being, which depends on that routine. Reyes says she goes to the hospital as often as she can during the day, despite her full-time job as a matrimonial law paralegal, while her husband takes over at night so Reyes can race home to spend time with her son, doing dinner and baths. What she learned through her job, however, is not to let her marriage suffer as a result of

everything else that’s going on. “Having a child with a really sick illness is very, very hard,” she says. Michael is “my saving grace.” Sometimes, they snap at each other; it’s a natural instinct to take out your problems on the ones you love most, Reyes says. Still, she depends on her husband, describing him as “her rock.” “He calms me down for every worry that’s ever crossed my mind on both of our kids,” Reyes says. “It either makes you or breaks you, and I’m fortunate that it has kept us together.”

Common pitfalls Reyes and her husband have avoided many of the pitfalls common to special needs families. “Couples may fall in the trap of resentment, one-upping each other with frustrations of the day instead of showing gratitude, appreciation or really

Shana Frederick, a stayat-home mother in Wheaton, knows that feeling well. She and her husband have a 6-year-old and a 2-year-old, and her eldest, Ben, has special needs. “It changes everything,” she says. Ben has Asperger’s syndrome, PANDAS, brain inflammation and Lyme Disease. Last year, his therapy sessions alone took 35 hours a week. “It’s like a full-time job,” Frederick says. The full-time job has no breaks. She and her husband just celebrated their 10-year wedding anniversary two years late, and they brought along their parents ... and their kids. It’s all about adjusting their expectations and staying together as a team, Frederick says. Instead of going out to romantic dinners, they do a lot of takeout. They also are very clear about their own needs. “You can’t assume anything; nobody is a mind reader,” Frederick says. “If I’ve had listening to each other,” says enough, and he’s home, I have Carrie Krawiec, a marriage and to literally say, ‘I need a break, family therapist in Troy, Mich. can you give the kids a bath “Couples may also be inclined to tonight?’ When we assume, we talk less to each build up resentother because ment, and it’s too of the physical late.” demands of the Frederick also needs of the spelikes to remind cial needs child, herself that while like requiring she and her more one-on-one husband have supervision and to support each limited availother through the ability of skilled difficult times, babysitters.” there are also Or sometimes, many positive the parents might aspects of having a not talk because child with special — Brittany they feel sad or needs—and these guilty about their are the instances Reyes unmet dreams that they can celor expectations, ebrate together. Krawiec says. “We know that “If couples cannot turn we get to experience awesome toward each other and conthings together, and when you nect and empathize with these experience an amazing thing little talked about feelings, then happen with your child, there’s stress and disconnection will nothing like that—and you get grow,” she says. to do that together,” she says.

“It either makes you or breaks you, and I’m fortunate that it has kept us together.” |

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© Martina Magnusson


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2/1/18 1:15 PM

Camp time! Summer camp options for kids with special needs



ummer, children and camp just go together. Thankfully, the options for summer camps for children with special needs continue to expand, providing great opportunities for them to be in comfortable and encouraging environments, no matter their differences. We found a few camps near and far to help you start your search. Find more camp options in our Resources section.

JCC Chicago Photo Credit: Lynn Renee Photography

JCC Chicago Inclusive Camp Campers of all abilities are welcome at JCC Chicago’s Inclusive Camp, which has been nationally recognized for including campers with a wide range of learning, developmental, cognitive, social and physical disabilities into the larger camp program. Teaming up with Keshet, a leader in inclusive recreation and education programs, JCC Chicago offers 12 inclusive day and overnight camps to campers with disabilities so they can experience a summer of adventure and friendship with their typically developing peers.

One in a Hundred Since 2009, One in a Hundred summer camp has created a positive day camp experience by helping children who have challenges establishing and maintaining friendships, such as those diagnosed with high-functioning autism, social communication disorders, attention deficit disorder and anxiety disorders. Camp is for kids entering first-eighth grade and takes place June 25-July 27 at the Northbrook Covenant Church in Northbrook. Over the five weeks, campers will write and perform their own plays, play sports and enjoy arts and crafts. Campers are placed in groups according to grade and social abilities and the curriculum adapts to the needs of each group.

Camp STAR Children with ADHD and related difficulties are embraced at Camp STAR in Highland Park. The seven-week day camp allows kids to enjoy fun, recreational camp activities while receiving therapeutic services that focus on improving behavior, developing social skills, building friendships and boosting self-esteem. The award-winning camp is for kids 6-13. Each child’s needs are assessed prior to the start of camp. Transportation can be provided for an additional fee. CONTINUED ON PAGE 20 |

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Camp Little Giant

Camp Red Leaf

Camp Crossroads

If your child is interested in a sleepaway camp, Camp Little Giant is a great option. Located on the shores of Little Grassy Lake in the Shawnee National Forest of southern Illinois, the camp was established by the founders of Special Olympics in 1953 and accommodates children and adults with all types of special needs. With the philosophy of helping campers develop a “can-do” attitude, Camp Little Giant offers all the best camp activities like arts and crafts, swimming, music, nature hikes, horseback riding, campfires and more. Weeks vary by age and developmental needs. camp-little-giant

Located in Ingleside, Camp Red Leaf is the only American Camp Associationaccredited camp serving both children and adults with disabilities in Chicago. Camp Red Leaf provides week-long camp opportunities for ages 9 and up, weekend respite care, 10-day travel camp adventures and day camp options. Select the best program for your child with a highly adaptable program that works to increase self-esteem, promote interactions and encourage independence in a safe environment.

Often children with diabetes feel stripped of their independence, but this one-week day camp, Camp Crossroads in Chicago, offers camping activities for ages 4-9 while developing confidence in caring for their diabetes. Trained certified health professionals and counselors teach campers about insulin, blood sugar testing, exercise and nutrition. At the beginning of each camp session, there will be information-sharing times for parents.

Tuesday’s Child Summer Camp For families struggling with behavior issues, Tuesday’s Child offers a behavioral summer camp for kids 6 and younger. The camp includes visits to parks, fun themes and field trips while offering a low staff-to-child ratio of 4:1 and evidence-based behavioral interventions.

Camp Riley Each summer, hundreds of campers, generally ages 8-18, with physical disabilities and medical conditions, attend one of the eight Camp Riley sessions. Each session offers small staff-to-camper ratio, swimming, hiking, horseback riding, climbing, and arts and crafts. Bradford Woods, where the camps are held, is an auxiliary enterprise of Indiana University. Physicians and staff at Riley Hospital for Children provide 24-hour medical care.

Camp I Am Me If your child has experienced a burn injury, Camp I Am Me is an opportunity for them to not have to worry about appearances or what others think. At this one-week sleepaway camp at the YMCA Camp Duncan location, kids 8-16 experience the joys of camp, from fishing to swimming to playing sports and meeting new friends. Camp I Am Me, sponsored by the Illinois Fire Safety Alliance, is from June 17-23 and offered at no cost to campers. Megan Murray Elsener is a Chicago Parent contributor and mother of three.

Yoga for the Special Child BASIC PART 1 48 HOURS Five Keys Yoga, Chicago IL

March 24-29, 2018 Yoga for the Special Child® is the Pioneering Program of Yoga Therapy for babies, children and young adults with special needs. 20


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This unique yoga method developed by the internationally renowned senior yoga teacher Sonia Sumar has been improving the lives of children with special needs across the globe for over fortyfive years and has made and incredible mark in the world.


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Finding joy at Camp Red Kite


amp Red Kite is a magical place. And the people lucky enough to work there for three weeks out of every summer, many of them Chicago Public School special education teachers, get to see lives changing for kids on the autism spectrum.

They’ve seen nonverbal kids become verbal and kids locked away in themselves become more social as they create art, move to music, share quiet time and work together to create theater, which they then perform. Participation is never forced, but it is encouraged, and during a visit to the camp last summer, it appeared campers were always game to try. Over the three-week camp, camp administrator Dawn Akels says she can clearly see the changes from the beginning of camp until the end.

For Chicago Children’s Theater Artistic Director Jacqueline Russell, the person behind creating Camp Red Kite, it is all part of her mission to keep arts in the lives of people of all different abilities. At Camp Red Kite, she says she and the staff keep expectations high and “always believe in the potential of these kids.” Russell has spent her life dedicated to showing how drama can make a difference for kids on the spectrum. “When we had an opportunity to build a home for Chicago Children’s Theater, we really wanted to make sure that Red Kite was a very central component of the work that we do,” she says. What they’ve created is a bright space full of potential. Efforts to bring drama to kids with special needs continue to grow as Russell operates residency programs in nearly a dozen schools and offers professional development with CPS teachers. New on the horizon is working with blind and low-vision students at a local elementary school to create what she is calling Extra-Sensory Theater, theater

that is less about sight and vision and more about smell and touch. “Now that we have a space where we can come and create and we’ve identified a classroom and a group of teachers that we can really partner with, I can see it’s our new frontier,” she says. Registration for Camp Red Kite, Aug. 6-24, is now open. Register at chicago, email

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At Shriners Hospitals for Children — Chicago, our mission is simple: deliver world-class care to children who need it most – regardless of their ability to pay. For over 90 years, thousands of families with children in need of orthopaedic care, specialized plastic surgery, cleft lip and palate repair, physical rehabilitation, and spinal cord injury care have come through our doors with hopes of finding the very best pediatric specialty care. Under our roof, those hopes are answered every day — by physicians, nurses, and specialists using the latest technology, innovative research, and a collaborative, family-centered approach. It’s how the 22 Shriners Hospital locations have provided care for over 1.3 million children.

Do You Know a Child For a consultation, or to refer a patient, call: Who Needs Expert Shriners Hospitals for Children — Chicago Specialty Care? 773-385-KIDS (5437)

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Fun for all Places for all abilities to be who they are



ften the crowds, noise and unpredictability that come with outings to local museums and Brookfield Zoo businesses can be overwhelming for For the past few years in April, Brookfield Zoo has partnered with Autism Speaks, the children with special needs. Yet these leading autism advocacy organization, to take children deserve to be exposed to the part in the annual Zoos Go Blue campaign. same fun and adventures. There are special Zoos Go Blue activities for families with children on the Luckily, more local autism spectrum. With quieted museums, theaters and carousel rides, tailored zoo chats with animals and desbusinesses realize ignated areas for quiet time that inclusion is geared towards special needs important and are families, the zoo becomes an easier place to manage. continuing to step If visiting outside of Zoos Go up and accommodate Blue, Brookfield always offers a free BZ Care Kit that includes families with special spectrum noise-reducing headphones, hard needs. Many even offer toy store copies of visual schedules, stickers, special times and events safety alert badges and ID bracelets. 8400 W. 31st St., Brookfield; (708) 688just for special needs families. 8000; Check out these places where your kids are free to be themselves.

Chicago Children’s Museum Held on the second Saturday of every month, Play for All at Chicago Children’s Museum invites children and families with disabilities to experience the inclusive and multi-sensory exhibits. The museum opens early for a private hour at 9 a.m. for preregistered guests and the first 250 receive free admission. Families are welcome to stay once the museum opens to the public. 700 E. Grand Ave., Navy Pier, Chicago; (312) 527-1000;

Kohl Children’s Museum

Kohl Children’s Museum’s Everyone at Play events, held on specific Sundays, 9:3011 a.m., are closed to the public to allow families with children with special needs to explore the exhibits and enjoy opportunities for calm, creative and collaborative play. The upcoming dates are Feb. 18, May 20 and June 24. The museum also has a Parents Guide to Kohl Children’s Museum, created in collaboration with North Shore Pediatric Therapy, to help parents choose the exhibits they want to visit. 2100 Patriot Blvd., Glenview; (847) 8326600;

Chicago Children’s Museum

Pump It Up What kid doesn’t love to jump around and burn off some energy? Pump it Up in Elmhurst has a special Sensory Jump Night on the first Tuesday of every month where the play areas are reserved for kids on the autism spectrum and their families. Kids can jump, slide and play sensory-friendly games in a safe atmosphere. It’s just $6 per CONTINUED ON PAGE 24 |

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child and includes a gluten-free snack. Pump It Up in Orland Park also offers a Sensory Jump Night on the first Monday of each month. 684 W. Lake St., Elmhurst; (630) 941-7867 11411 W. 183rd St., Orland Park; (708) 479-2220

DuPage Children’s Museum


The third Thursday of each month at the DuPage Children’s Museum is designated with special resources and programming for visitors with accessibility or special needs. It features activities with a trained comfort dog, studio sensory art projects with an art specialist, as well as after-school programming with specialists to assist with specific IEP and at-home goals and objectives. A sensory story and playtime is from 4:30-5:30 p.m. On other days, after school and early evenings are often quieter and good times to visit.

Field Museum 301 N. Washington St., Naperville; (630) 637-8000;

Field Museum If your family has a child with disabilities and sensory processing needs, the Field Museum has fun planned at Sensory Saturdays. Doors of the Crown Family PlayLab open one hour early. From 9-10 a.m., they offer hands-on opportunities and sensory tools to help make it an enjoyable experience for the

whole family. Sensory Saturdays are free with advance registration, capped at 40 guests so that families can enjoy a calm, crowd-free space. To register, email accessibilityeducator@ 1400 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago; (312) 922-9410;

Sky High Sports The indoor trampoline park Sky High Sports offers a Special Needs Tuesday every week at the

Naperville and Niles locations. From 3-6 p.m, they turn off the music, dim the lights and dial down the distractions to welcome special needs children. Sky High Sports Founder Jerry Raymond is the father of a son with Asperger’s syndrome, so being inclusive to all children is a company priority. It’s just $5 for each jumper, and one parent or therapist can come for free. 6424 Howard St., Niles; (847) 801-5867 2244 Corporate Lane, Naperville; (630) 717-5867

Morton Arboretum The Morton Arboretum is a perfect place for families with special needs to explore and love nature together. While the arboretum does not have specific programming or hours for special needs families, it does offer a resource page on navigating the space. Visual schedule books, designed specifically for individuals on the autism spectrum or





Show starts promptly at 1:30pm Lunch 11:00am - 1:00pm


9333 S Cicero, Oak Lawn, IL 60453

Model Casting Call Ages 3-25

We are seeking models for the upcoming fashion show Register now at



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with learning or developmental disabilities, are available at the information desk in the visitor center. 4100 Ill. Route 53, Lisle; (630) 968-0074;

Lincoln Park Zoo While the Lincoln Park Zoo doesn’t have specific programming for children with special needs, it has created a great online resource guide outlining the best times to visit, which animal houses are the quietest, the places with the most comfortable lighting, and which areas of the zoo are sensory neutral.

2001 N. Clark St., Lincoln Park; (312) 742-2000; accessibility

Spectrum Toy Store Sometimes shopping with kids who have special needs can feel overwhelming. Not at Spectrum Toy Store, which has a variety of toys, sensory items, books and resources for caregivers and parents. With toys for children with disabilities and all abilities, you can feel comfortable shopping while your kids explore and play. 1911 W. Belmont, Chicago; (773) 231-8001; spectrumtoy

Chicago Parent is having a new baby, too!


See you at the movies Studio Movie Grill Since 2003, Studio Movie Grill in Wheaton has offered monthly special needs screenings designed specifically for families raising children with special needs. Screenings are done with the lights up and the volume lowered. Children are free to move around, talk and even dance in the aisles during movies. All Special Needs Screenings are at 11 a.m. Upcoming dates are Feb. 17 for “Peter Rabbit,” Feb. 24 for “Early Man,” and March 3 for “Black Panther.” 301 Rice Lake Square, Wheaton; (630) 480-9557;

Marcus Theatres With the intention to make it comfortable for families with special needs to attend movies together, Marcus Theatre started Reel Movies for Real Needs. It features lower sound and lights turned up. A select first-run movie is featured at least one Saturday each month at 10:30 a.m. Regular matinee pricing applies. The upcoming schedule is “Peter Rabbit”

on Feb. 10, “Black Panther” on Feb. 17, “A Wrinkle in Time” on March 10, “Sherlock Gnomes” on March 24 and “Duck Duck Goose” on April 21. 1555 W. Lake St., Addison; (630) 932-4572 1301 Hilltop Ave., Chicago Heights; (708) 747-0928 111 S. Randall Road, Elgin; (847) 622-3023 16350 S. LaGrange Road, Orland Park; (708) 873-1582

AMC Theatres AMC Theatres partner with the Autism Society to offer a Sensory Friendly Film program, which shows family-friendly movies the second and fourth Saturdays of the month with lights up, sound down and no worries about anyone talking, singing or dancing in the theater. The upcoming featured movie is “Peter Rabbit” on Feb. 10 and Feb 24. Assistive listening devices are available at all movies and closed captioning is available for some movies. sensory-friendly-films

Finding balance




Windy City wins BROUGHT TO YOU BY…

2018 EDITION COMING SOON! *Cover HEY BABY Spring 2017.indd 1


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Sunday, February 11 • 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. Chicago Parent brings our popular Playdate event to families with special needs.

Chicago Parent brings our popular Playdate event to families with special needs.

Be part of our special day! Bouncy Houses • Live Entertainment • Quiet Room • Vendors & Resources

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Resources Adaptive Services, Autism Spectrum Disorders . . . . . . . . . 27 Blind or Visually Impaired. . . . . . . . . . 30 Camps . . . . . . . . . . . 31 Deaf or Hearing Impaired. . . . . . . . . . 32

Special Olympics Illinois

Down Syndrome, Epilepsy, General . . . 33


Recreation . . . . . . . . 36

Extended Home Living Services

Support . . . . . . . . . . 37 Disabilities organizations . . . . . . 38 Education, Vocational Training . . . . . . . . . . 39

210 W. Campus Drive Suite B Arlington Heights (847) 215-9490

Provides stair lifts, accessible bathroom remodeling, ramps and wheelchair lifts, ceiling mounted lift systems, home elevators, and general remodeling

to provide accessibility. Get a free in-home consultation or visit the showroom.

nity, including sales, mechanical service, rental vans and mobile consulting.



23855 W. Andrew Road Plainfield 9207 N. Milwaukee Ave. Niles 155 E. North Ave. Villa Park (877) 275-4907

2280 Cornell Ave. Montgomery (630) 892-7267

Provides wheelchair vans and adaptive equipment to the disabled commu-

Rents, sells and installs lifts and ramps that assist individuals with mobility issues, granting access to places most people take for granted.

Find more information online


he resources here are just an excerpt of the hundreds of searchable resources you can find online at If you are a resource provider and your services are not listed online, e-mail Editor Elizabeth Diffin at ediffin@ with your information. A high resolution photo (1200 pixels) is encouraged.

AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDERS Alexander Leigh Center for Autism 4100 Veterans Parkway McHenry (815) 344-2522

Nonprofit, full-day, year-round therapeutic day school approved by the Illinois State Board of Education. The school is for kids 3-18 with autism spectrum disorder, OHI, multiple disabilities, developmental delay and/or intellectual disability. Students receive 1:1 support in the areas of academics, speech, OT, music therapy, life skills, behavior and community-based instruction. Serves Cook, DuPage, Lake, Kane and McHenry counties. |

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Autism & Anxiety Consultants LLC 1100 Lake St., Suite 210 B Oak Park (847) 338-2525

Therapy for children, adults and families with Autism Spectrum Disorder/anxiety disorders.

Autism Behavior & Childhood Services Chicago (773) 552-3810

Offers a wide range of therapies and approaches that are custom designed for each child, using the Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA Therapy) approach in-home.

Autism Spectrum Therapies Winnetka, Northbrook, Chicago (312) 635-8989

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Have Dreams Offers a multidisciplinary approach to helping families live with autism throughout Chicago and the North Shore. Services include Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA); individual, couples and family therapy as well as play therapy.

Autism Home Support Services Northbrook, Arlington Heights (844) 247-7222

In-home customized ABA behavior therapy for children with autism and other related disorders.

Autism Speaks Chicagoland Chapter 3500 W. Peterson Ave. Suite 204 (224) 567-8573



Nonprofit organization dedicated to awareness, funding, science, research and advocacy for autism. Also provides free services for families.

Behavioral Perspective Inc. 452 N. Eola Road, Suite A Aurora (630) 999-0401

Provides ABA services to maximize independence and quality of life for individuals impacted by autism.

Center for Autism & Related Disorders Multiple locations (855) 345-2273

CARD’s primary objective is to help each person attain his or her maxi-

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mum potential in the least restrictive environment via behaviorallybased intervention. Each program is individualized in accordance with the particular deficits and skills identified through assessment.

ties and sibling activities are offered throughout the year. After-school clubs and summer programs are offered. A family lending library is available. Charlie’s Gift is a program of The Community House.

Charlie’s Gift Autism Center

Chicago Autism & Behavior Specialists

Center for Autism and Related Disorders 415 W. Eighth St. Hinsdale (630) 323-7500

Provides individual and group occupational, speech and mental health/behavioral therapy for children/ families through a family-centered, teambased approach. Family education/support activi-

901 W. Hawthorn Drive Itasca (800) 844-1232

Treats children with autism and related disorders. Programs are based on the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). In addition to language and communication skills, programs encourage flexibility, problem solv-

ing, impulse control, social referencing and self-regulation. Social work, speech therapy and parent training are incorporated into treatment plans.

Chicagoland Autism Connection 1803 W. 95th St., #268 Chicago (773) 329-0375

CAC meets on the third Saturday of each month from September through June (except December). Each meeting includes one or more speakers on a topic of interest.

(815) 725-2194

Offers a wide variety of programming for children with autism spectrum disorders including pediatric physical, occupational and speech therapy. Includes a medical diagnostic clinic, social skills groups, sibling recreational workshops, family special recreation nights, inclusive birth-4 daycare, mental health therapy, educational materials and a parent support group.

Easter Seals Autism Programs-Joliet

Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley: Autism Diagnostic Clinic & Autism Services

212 Barney Drive Joliet

Centers in Villa Park, Naperville and Elgin


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The clinic provides a comprehensive interdisciplinary team evaluation to determine the presence of an Autism Spectrum Disorder or other developmental disability. It assists families in determining their child’s specific needs related to their diagnosis. Families leave the clinic with a diagnosis, initial treatment guidelines and resources. Easter Seals also offers a variety of services that address the specific strengths and challenges of children with autism. A team of licensed professionals works with each family to develop a well-rounded therapy plan. Services are provided individually or in a group setting.

Easter Seals Therapeutic School and Center for Autism Research 1939 W. 13th St., Suite 300 Chicago (312) 491-4110 or

This campus combines educational, therapeutic research, training, school-to-work transition and adult vocational services. The interior features include special acoustic finishes, lighting fixtures and observation rooms in classrooms to help reduce distractions and promote more effective learning. Serves clients 3-22.

Have Dreams 515 Busse Highway, Suite 150 Park Ridge 2020 Dempster St. Evanston (847) 685-0250 (Park Ridge)

Special Recreation Associations in Illinois provide a lifetime of recreation opportunities for children and adults with disabilities. Please visit or contact WDSRA at 630-681-0962 to find an agency near you.

(847) 905-0702 (Evanston)

Serves children, teens and young adults with autism. Offers individualized after-school programs, vocational, life skills and transition to employment programs, along with diagnostic and family support services. The continuum of services support individuals from early childhood through adulthood. Programs include Special Olympics, Technology Club and a nationally recognized Film & Multimedia camp. Transition to adult services include Project SEARCH Collaborates for Autism at Northwestern University and Have Dreams Academy, as well as a variety of programs that focus on develop-

Ups for Downs ing critical soft skills for employment, internship experiences and life skills. Also provides bestpractice autism training for professionals and

Helping Hand Center 9649 W. 55th St. Countryside (708) 352-3580

Lily Cache Special Recreation Association (LCSRA) 630-739-1124,

South East Association for Special Parks & Recreation (SEASPAR) 630-960-7600,

Lincolnway Special Recreation Association (LWSRA) 815-320-3500,

South Suburban Special Recreation Association (SSSRA) 815-806-0384,

Maine-Niles Association of Special Recreation (M-NASR) 847-966-5522,

South West Special Recreation Association (SWSRA) 708-389-9423,

McDonough County Special Recreation Association (MCSRA) 309-833-4526,

Southwestern Illinois Special Recreation Association (SWILSRA) 618-877-3059,

New Star Recreation Services (NSRS) 708-801-9966,

Special Recreation Association of Central Lake County (SRACLC) 847-816-4866,

Champaign-Urbana Special Recreation (CUSR) 217-239-1152,

Northern Illinois Special Recreation Association (NISRA) 815-459-0737,

Chicago Park District Special Recreation Dept. 312-742-5798,

Northern Suburban Special Recreation Association (NSSRA) 847-509-9400, Northern Will County Special Recreation Association (NWCSRA) 815-407-1819,

Gateway Special Recreation Association (Gateway) 630-620-2222,

Northlands Association for Special Recreation (NASR) Belvidere 815-547-5711, Freeport 815-235-6114, Rockford 815-987-1606,

Heart of Illinois Special Recreation Association (HISRA) 309-691-1929,

Northwest Special Recreation Association (NWSRA) 847-392-2848,

Illinois River Valley Special Recreation Association (IRVSRA) 309-347-7275,

Oak Lawn Park District/Special Recreation Cooperative 708-857-2200, River Valley Special Recreation Association (RVSRA) 815-933-7336,

Special Recreation Services of Northern Lake County (SRSNLC) Lindenhurst - 847-356-6011, Round Lake - 847-546-8558, Waukegan - 847-360-4760, Zion - 847-746-5500, Special Recreation of Joliet and Channahon (SRJC) 815-741-7275 x160, Springfield Park District 217-585-2941, Veterans Park District/Village of River Grove 708-343-5270, Warren Special Recreation Association (WSRA) 847-244-6619, Western DuPage Special Recreation Association (WDSRA) 630-681-0962, West Suburban Special Recreation Association (WSSRA) 847-455-2100, |

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Therapeutic Day School for children with autism, ages 3-21, providing year-round best practice services. Pediatric outpa-

Special Opportunities Available in Recreation (S.O.A.R.) 309-434-2260,

Northeast DuPage Special Recreation Association (NEDSRA) 630-620-4500,

Fox Valley Special Recreation Association (FVSRA) 630-907-1114,

Kishwaukee Special Recreation Association (KSRA) 779-777-7285,

Look for our ad in this magazine.

Decatur Park District Special Recreation Assn. 217-429-7750,

individual and school consultative services.

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tient clinic for children birth-21 with an array of disabilities and delays, providing occupational, physical, speech and language, and music therapy. Also offers psychotherapy, mental health and diagnostic testing, and behavioral services.

Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired 700 Elm St. Winnetka (847) 446-8111

The largest provider of tuition-free distance education for individuals over age 14 who are blind or visually impaired. More than 100 courses are offered in five program areas: Family Education, High School, Adult Continuing Education, Professional Studies and Low Vision Focus. Materials are provided in a student’s medium of choice including large print, braille, audio and online.

Howard Intervention Center 8324 Ashland Ave. Homewood (708) 794-6509

Provides home, center and community-based ABA therapy for autism up to age 21. Also offers a parent support group the second Thursday of each month and parents’ night out on the third Saturday of the month (reservations required).

Little City Foundation ChildBridge Services

The Chicago Lighthouse for People who are Blind or Visually Impaired

700 N. Sacramento Blvd. Suite 201 Chicago 1760 W. Algonquin Road Palatine (773) 265-1539 (Chicago) (847) 358-5510 (Palatine)

Provides services for children 21 and under with autism and other intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families, including in-home personal and family supports, clinical and behavior intervention, 24/7 residential services, therapeutic art programs and special needs foster care and adoption services. The ChildBridge Center for Education provides progressive services for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities, as well as students with severe and profound needs on the autism spectrum. Also provides employment services and training,



1850 W. Roosevelt Road Chicago (312) 666-1331

Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired horticulture, art, recreational opportunities and residential services for young adults.

Little Friends Inc. 140 N. Wright St. Naperville (630) 355-6533

Operates three schools, vocational training programs, communitybased residential services and the Little Friends Center for Autism. Founded in 1965, Little Friends serves more than 800 people each year throughout DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Will, McHenry and western

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Cook counties.

PACTT Learning Center 7101 N. Greenview Ave. Chicago (773) 338-9102

PACTT Learning Center offers educational, residential, and vocational services for people with severe autism and their families. The therapeutic day school focuses on academics, independent living, communication and social interaction for students 3-21 and includes a transition program for older teens. PACTT also operates two

group homes for children and two adult homes that focus on independent life skills and community integration.

Turning Pointe Autism Foundation 1500 W. Ogden Ave. Naperville (630) 570-7948 turningpointeautism

Offers a therapeutic day school, Career College life skills training, recreational opportunities and individualized programming for children, individuals and families navigating the lifelong impact of autism.

Provides the highest quality education, clinical, vocational and rehabilitation services for children and adults who are blind or visually impaired, including deaf-blind and multi-disabled. The Lighthouse offers a nationally acclaimed school for children with multi-disabilities, a Birthto-3 Early Intervention Program for infants and families, a blended preschool with children who are blind or visually impaired and those who are sighted, the Sandy and Rick Forsythe Center for Comprehensive Vision Care, a scholarship program for post-secondary education and a Tools for Living retail store with

an extensive supply of adaptive technology.

The Chicago Lighthouse Vision Rehabilitation Center (The Chicago Lighthouse North) 222 Waukegan Road Glenview (847) 510-6200

Serves to meet the needs of residents on the north side of Chicago as well as in the northern suburbs. It houses a Birthto-3 Early Intervention Program for infants and families; a state-ofthe-art low vision care clinic offering optometry, psychological counseling and occupational therapy services; a Tools for Living retail store offering a vast assortment of independent living aids tailored for people who are visually impaired; cutting-edge adaptive technology devices featuring the latest in innovative text-to-speech electronics, CCTVs; and an array of enrichment programs for children and seniors.

The Illinois Association for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments P.O. Box 316634 Chicago (815) 355-2098

Provides support information services to parents of visually impaired children.

CAMPS Camp Bradford Woods Indiana University’s Outdoor Center 5040 S.R. 67 North Martinsville, Ind. (765) 342-2915

Single-day and overnight programs and


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CAMPS events for children with special needs and their families.

Camp Easter Seals Program

As a veteran serviceprovider for children and adults with disabilities, Easter Seals meets the need for accessible camping with 140 camping and recreation facilities across the country. Day and residential camp sessions, as well as weekend and afterschool programs, are available. (Hours, duration, activities, eligibility requirements, transportation availability and tuition vary from camp to camp.) Visit website for more information.

Camp New Hope P.O. Box 764 Mattoon

(217) 895-2341

Accommodates people of widely diverse developmental disabilities ages 8 and up. Wheelchairfriendly facilities include mini-golf, pontoon boat, fishing deck, on-site automatic external defibrillator, playground, sleeping cabins with air conditioning, trails, 3-foot swimming pool with lift and shaded deck, respite building and the Camp New Hope train. Camps begins the first week of June and run through the last week of July.

Camp Red Kite The Station 100 S. Racine Ave. Chicago (773) 227-0180, ext. 322 campredkite

Provides a high-quality arts experience tailored

specifically to the unique interests and needs of children on the autism spectrum. Led by a team of artists, administrators and special needs teachers dedicated to creating a safe, welcoming and comfortable environment for children with autism who enjoy making art. Scholarships available.

SEASPAR is a special recreation association providing year-round, all-ages recreational programs and services to individuals with disabilities in the communities of: Brookfield • Clarendon Hills • Darien • Downers Grove Indian Head Park • La Grange • La Grange Park • Lemont Lisle • Western Springs • Westmont • Woodridge

Summer Day Camps

Camp Red Leaf -Jewish Council of Youth Services (JCYS)

SEASPAR’s day camps are the perfect place for kids, teens, and young adults ages 3–22 to spend their summer enjoying creative, social, and physical activities as well as fun community outings.

26710 W. Nippersink Ingleside (847) 740-5010

For individuals ages 9 and older with disabilities. The only American Camp Association accredited camp serving both children and adults with disabilities in metropolitan Chicago, Camp Red Leaf fulfills a vital

Wonders Multi-Sensory Room SEASPAR’s Wonders Multi-Sensory Room in Lisle offers soothing and stimulating therapeutic recreation for autism, ASD, and ADHD.

SEASPAR also offers Look for weekly programs, special events, trips, Special our summer Olympics athlete program guide training, adapted sports, in April! and more for all ages.


4500 Belmont Road Downers Grove, IL 60515 Camp Bradford Woods |

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630.960.7600 630.960.7605 TDD

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DEAF OR HEARING IMPAIRED need for safe, reliable, and enriching programming for individuals with special needs by providing week-long Summer Camp opportunities, Weekend Respite Care and 10-day Travel Camp adventures. The highly adaptable programs strive to increase self-esteem, promote interaction, improve social skills and encourage independence in a natural environment.

Camp Wisconsin Badger P.O. Box 723 Platteville, Wis. (608) 988-4558

Hosts eight one-week sessions and one twoweek session specially tailored to meet the needs of each camper with developmental delays.

JCYS Camp STAR Highland Park (847) 814-STAR (7827)

A summer treatment program for children entering grades 1-7 with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Related Disorders. The award-winning sevenweek treatment program takes place in a full-day camp setting. Co-sponsored by Jewish Council for Youth Services and University of Illinois at Chicago

Shady Oaks Camp for People with Disabilities 16300 S. Parker Road Homer Glen (708) 301-0816

Residential summer camp for people with disabilities ages 5 and up. Also offers a twoweek day camp program for children with disabilities age 5-17.



Easter Seals Autism Programs-Joliet Tourette Syndrome Camp Organization Ingleside (773) 465-7536

Residential camping program is designed for kids 8-16 with a primary diagnosis of Tourette Syndrome and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and, to a lesser degree, ADD/ADHD. For more information, email info@

YMCA Camp Independence Camp Independence at Camp Duncan 32405 N. Highway 12 Ingleside (847) 546-8086

An 8-week summer camp program and 4 weekend retreats throughout the year, serving children and adults with spina bifida. YMCA Camp Independence’s mission

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is to provide programs that teach life skills, foster independence, build confidence and increase self-esteem.

DEAF OR HEARING IMPAIRED AGBMS-AEHI Alexander Graham Bell Montessori School 9300 Capitol Drive Wheeling (847) 850-5490

Provides an oral education program for deaf and hard-of-hearing children using Cued Speech to enhance their ability to acquire age-appropriate literacy skills. Children are mainstreamed with hearing peers and receive support services from licensed teachers of the

St. Coletta of Illinois deaf and speech and language pathologists.

Center on Deafness 3444 Dundee Road Northbrook (847) 559-0110

Serves children and adults who have hearing impairments with additional handicapping con-

ditions such as mental illness or developmental disabilities.

CHOICES for Parents P.O. Box 806045 Chicago (312) 523-6400 (866) 733-8729

Provides parents of children with hearing loss with support, informa-

tion and resources.

Illinois School for the Deaf 125 Webster Ave. Jacksonville (217) 479-4200

Educates students who are deaf or hard of hearing to be responsible, self-supporting citizens.


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GENERAL Project Reach-Illinois Deaf-Blind Services

people with disabilities. All services are provided at no charge.

818 DuPage Blvd. Glen Ellyn (630) 790-2474

Anixter Center

Provides an array of services, including education, employment, life skills, communication, recreation, health care, counseling and support, for people with disabilities. More than 10,000 children, teens and adults are served each year at locations across greater Chicago. Most people who receive services have physical, intellectual, developmental, sensory, psychiatric or HIV/AIDS-related disabilities. Advocates for the rights of people with disabilities to be full and equal members of society.

DOWN SYNDROME Down in the Southland P.O. Box 831 Tinley Park (708) 614-6118

Down in the Southland is devoted to fostering the development of lifelong educational, social and life skills among individuals with Down syndrome and their families in the southern suburbs of Chicago. Provides educational support and programs that help children increase their future skills.

GiGi’s Playhouse 2350 W. Higgins Road Hoffman Estates (847) 885-PLAY (7529)

International Down syndrome achiev ement centers that offer free educational and therapeutic programs and support for individuals with Down syndrome, their families and the community. Other Illinois locations include Chicago, Fox Valley, Oak Forest, McHenry, Rockford and Bradley.

National Association for Down Syndrome 1460 Renaissance Drive Suite #405 Park Ridge (630) 325-9112

Services include information and support for

Blue Cap

JCC Camp families at every stage of life, leadership and self-advocacy training for young adults with Down syndrome, education for professionals working with individuals with disabilities, and trained public speakers who present at hospitals, schools and other organizations in the community.

Topical meetings are held on the third Tuesday of the month, from September through May at the Fox Links Golf Run Club House in Elk Grove Village. See website or email info@upsfor for more information on activities.

Ups for Downs

Danny Did Foundation

Hartford Plaza 1070 S. Roselle Road Schaumburg (847) 895-2100

A volunteer parent-run group for families, professionals and people with Down syndrome.

seizure safety, seizure monitoring devices and awareness-raising events. Funding goes toward families who cannot afford seizure devices and research.

GENERAL Access Living

EPILEPSY P.O. Box 46576 Chicago (800) 278-6101

The foundation’s website offers resources for parents, information on SUDEP and

115 W. Chicago Ave. Chicago (312) 640-2100

Offers peer-oriented independent living services; public education, awareness and outreach; individualized and systemic advocacy; and enforcement of civil rights on behalf of

Provides intensive motor training programs based on the principles of conductive education for children with physical disabilities. Conductive education is an intensive method of teaching motor disabled children to be more functionally independent. The motivating, peer-supported program focuses on functional activities to improve independence and serves children with cerebral palsy ages 2-18. The transdisciplinary team of conductive education teachers, occupational therapists and physical therapists provide year-round and summer programming.


2155 Broadway St. Blue Island (708) 389-6578

1835 W. Central Road Arlington Heights (847) 870-7711

Blue Cap offers a school for children with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including autism, who are 3-21. On-site day care for children of all abilities ages 2-5 is also available.

Provides experiences and opportunities through programs and services for people with autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and other developmental disabilities.

Center for Enriched Living

Community Support Services Inc

280 Saunders Road Riverwoods (847) 948-7001

Fun and learning join forces at the Center for Enriched Living, where youth, teens and adults enjoy social, art and recreational programs in Riverwoods and in the community beyond. Offers a summer camp for teens and young adults, 13-22, as well as day programs for adults. |

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Countryside, Lake Zurich, Chicago, Homewood (708) 588-0833

6610 N. Clark St. Chicago (773) 973-7900

Provides technical assistance/consultation, information, training and family support to address the needs of children with deafblindness, their families and their schools.

Center for Independence through Conductive Education

9021 W. Ogden Ave. Brookfield 5416 W. 25th St. Cicero (708) 354-4547

Nonprofit serving people of all ages with intellectual/developmental disabilities and their families, in suburban Cook and eastern DuPage. Promotes independence and ability to engage in community life with respite,

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GENERAL CILA group homes and independent living arrangements, adult and parent support services, customized supported employment, transition planning and classes, cooking, art, health and wellness classes, and social activities. Cicero location focuses on family support services. CSS also owns and operates the Chicago Canine Club offering daycare, boarding, grooming, retail sales and conducting vocational training programs people with disabilities to develop skills to work in the pet care industry.

Division of Specialized Care for Children Central Administrative Office 3135 Old Jacksonville Road Springfield (800) 322-3722

University of Illinois at Chicago-Division of Specialized Care for Children provides free care coordination for families of children with special health care needs. The staff helps children who are residents of Illinois and have certain chronic, treatable conditions. Depending on specific needs and preferences, it might mean help accessing free testing to get a clear diagnosis, or offering information to learn more about a child’s condition. Care coordinators also find and arrange special medical care and explain insurance plans. Specialized Care for Children works with doctors, specialists and schools, to create a comprehensive plan of care that meets a family’s needs. Families that meet income guidelines



may also get help paying for certain medical expenses. Care coordination services are delivered by teams located throughout the state to help families within their community. Teams are formed based on each family’s needs.

Institute on Disability and Human Development-UIC Family Clinics 1640 W. Roosevelt Road Chicago (312) 413-1647

UIC Family Clinics serve individuals with developmental disabilities and their families across the lifespan. Services include a Hispanic Diagnostic and Family Support program, Early Intervention program and an Autism Clinic.

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Photo by Thomas Kubik

All-In Swim at Bernard Weinger JCC Keshet: A Rainbow of Hope for Individuals with Special Needs 600 Academy Drive Northbrook (847) 205-1234

Provides educational, recreational and vocational programs for children and young adults with special needs. Year-round programs allow kids to play and work alongside their typically-developing peers. Multiple locations throughout the Chicagoland area.

Lexi Kazian Foundation-Helping From Heaven 21760 W. Washington St. Grayslake (847) 624-LEXI (5394)

Helps network families through fun events for the child with special

needs that the whole family will enjoy. Also runs Lexi’s Closet, a place to request therapy equipment parents can’t get from their insurance company, are waiting to get delivered or are not sure will work for their child. Also accepts gently used therapy equipment to share with others.

Marklund 1S450 Wyatt Drive Geneva (630) 593-5500

A nonprofit organization that makes everyday life possible for infants, children and adults with severe and profound developmental disabilities through residential and educational services. Campuses are located in Bloomingdale and Geneva. Services include residential services for

developmentally disabled infants, children and adults; specialized developmental training for residents as well as community clients; and also includes Marklund Day School: specialized education and life skills training for children with medical, developmental and physical disabilities, and those on the Autism Spectrum.

MidAmerica Service Dogs’ Foundation 7630 S. County Line Road Unit 3B Burr Ridge (630) 272-8159

Provides service dogs and companion dogs to children and adults with disabilities free of charge. Dogs and people are matched based on their specific training and disabilities. Many dogs are

obtained from shelters or rescue groups as well as donated by breeders. Program includes children, some with disabilities, that foster and train dogs for other clients in the program.

Neumann Family Services 5547 N. Ravenswood Ave. Chicago (773) 769-4313

Provides education, housing, recreation, rehabilitation, training and employment opportunities to adults with disabilities and mental illness.

New Star 1005 W. End Ave. Chicago Heights (708) 755-8030

Community service agency that provides services to individuals


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GENERAL with developmental disabilities who reside in Southeast Cook County, Northeast Will County and Northwest Indiana.

Oak Leyden Developmental Services 411 Chicago Ave. Oak Park (708) 524-1050

Individual and group therapy and support services for children birth-5 with developmental delays; community dropin events for families with young children; Music Together classes; day and residential services for adults with developmental disabilities.

services and supports at 35 locations in DuPage County.

Shore Community Services Inc. 8350 Laramie Ave. Skokie (847) 982-2030

Provides programs for children and adults with intellectual and other developmental disabilities including autism, cerebral palsy, epilepsy and many secondary mental and physical disabilities for birth-adult. Programs include Residential, Early Intervention, Supported

Living, Home-Based Services, Senior Program, Vocational, In-Home Respite and Adult Day Services. All programs are tailored to meet individuals’ needs and can focus on daily living skills, mobility, cognition, communication, socialization, fine and gross motor development, independent living, pre-vocational training, job training and job placement.

St. Coletta of Illinois 18350 Crossing Drive Suite 103 Tinley Park (708) 342-5246

Provides early childhood through high school education. The school program serves about 80 students who are developmentally disabled or autistic. The Vocational Training Center, in Tinley Park, provides opportunities for 250 individuals with special needs to become self-sufficient and learn the responsibilities and benefits of working. St. Coletta’s residential program is designed to provide quality housing for special needs individuals, allowing clients to be integrated into the

community and become productive members of society. The program consists of 30 group homes within 15 southwest suburban communities of Chicago.

Suburban Access Inc.-SAI 900 Maple Ave., 3rd floor Homewood (708) 799-9190

Nonprofit agency handles case management and service coordination to individuals with developmental disabilities in 18 townships of south and west suburban Cook County.

Trinity Services Inc. 301 Veterans Parkway New Lenox (815) 485-6197

Trinity serves 3,500 children and adults who have developmental disabilities or mental illness needs. Services for people with developmental disabilities include residential options, Trinity School for K-12, adult learning programs, employment services, a therapeutic horseback riding program, crisis prevention and intervention services. Trinity’s Behavioral Health program provides

Pioneer Center 4031 W. Dayton McHenry (815) 344-3815

A nonprofit organization located in McHenry County that provides adult and youth behavioral health services, intellectual and developmental disability programming and homeless services through McHenry County PADS.

Ray Graham Association 901 Warrenville Road Suite 500 Lisle (630) 620-2222

An innovative, personcentered organization that supports and works with people with disabilities, their families and the community to improve the individual’s quality of life. Nearly 2,500 children and adults with developmental disabilities, including developmental disabilities, cerebral palsy and autism receive vocational, residential, educational, respite, therapeutic and recreational

Photo by Thomas Kubik

Therapy Yoga Gymnastics Rocks |

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Photo by

NPN Developmental Differences Fair is March 11 at DePaul College Prep, Chicago comprehensive therapeutic services for people with a mental illness or dual diagnosis, residential programs, services specific to autism and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, traditional counseling for individuals, families and groups.

V.I.P Service Dog Foundation P.O. Box 851 Oswego (866) 439-3362

Trains service and companion dogs for the disabled.

RECREATION Chicago Children’s Museum Navy Pier 700 E. Grand Ave. Chicago (312) 527-1000



On the second Saturday of every month, the museum hosts its Play For All program, which provides families with children with special needs a chance to visit the museum early and play in a quiet, more manageable setting. Opens at 9 a.m. for the pre-registered guests and offers a quiet room with special lighting. Museum opens to the public at 10 a.m. The first 250 to register (limit six per family) receive free admission.

Special Stars 2230 Cornell Ave. Montgomery (630) 896-8277 stephaniesacademyofdance. com

A therapist-supported program that offers specialized and inclusive dance classes for kids with learning differ-

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ences ages 2 through adult. Classes promote cognitive, social and emotional, speech and language, fine motor and gross motor goals. Students are mentored by their peers of typical development.

KEEN: Kids Enjoy Exercise Now P.O. Box 6255 Chicago (312) 876-2535

Nonprofit, volunteerled organization that provides free one-to-one recreational opportunities for people 5-21 with developmental and physical disabilities. KEEN pairs a trained volunteer “coach” with a young athlete in sports and swim program. Programs take place at UIC Sport and Fitness Center, UIC East Campus, Loyola

Park, Alcott College Prep High School and Sky High Sports.

Right Fit Sport Fitness Wellness 7101 S. Adams St., Unit 7 Willowbrook 1045 S. LaGrange Road LaGrange (630) 850-4050

Right Fit’s Raise the Bar fitness programs and camps are offered year round for youth and adults with autism spectrum disorders and those who are physically and mentally challenged. Right Fit is a partner with PAK (ProActive Kids), training youths who struggle with obesity and providing support to the families.

School of Performing Arts Spectrum Program 200 E. 5th Ave., Suite 132

Naperville (630) 717-6622

ships and social cues.

Workshops in music, theater, dance and visual arts geared toward children with special needs. Also offers summer camps for children with special needs.

2244 Corporate Lane Naperville 6424 Howard St. Niles (630) 717-5867 (Naperville) (847) 801-5867 (Niles)

Second City Improv for ASD 1608 N. Wells St. Chicago chicago

The Second City Training Center has created an Improv for ASD and anxiety curriculum, offering both teens and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders a unique 12-week mentoring and development experience that includes improv games and exercises to help with the exploration of relation-

Sky High Sports

Once a month, Sky High Sports turns off the music and dials down the distractions for special jumpers. One court remains especially quiet for kids with sensory disorders who need an extra peaceful environment. Even children with physical disabilities can join the fun. A parent can take their child out of the wheelchair and lay them on the trampoline. Then mom or dad jumps, gently bouncing their child on the trampoline. Jumps are held from 3-6 p.m. the first Tuesday


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SUPPORT of each month. Cost is $5 for three hours for the special jumper with a parent or therapist. Siblings, friends and others who jump are also $5.

Special Gifts Theatre P.O. Box 2231 Northbrook (847) 564-7704

An educational- and therapy-based drama program for individuals who have special needs. SGT uses the stage as a platform to develop social skills, increase self-confidence and improve speech communication. Multiple locations and programs are available year-round for children and adults.

Special Olympics Illinois Northern Office 500 Waters Edge, Suite 100 Lombard (630) 942-5610

about starting a Young Athletes program in your home, school or community, contact

Special Recreation Associations in Illinois

The Special Recreation Associations Network of Illinois (SRANI) is a network of therapeutic recreation agencies. Special Recreation Associations provide communitybased special recreation services to children and adults with disabilities. These agencies are members of the Illinois Therapeutic Recreation Section of the Illinois Park and Recreation Association (IPRA).

The Sensory Garden Playground 2751 Navistar Drive Lisle

Special Olympics Illinois Young Athletes Program

The Sensory Garden Playground is a combination of sensoryintegrated playground equipment and amenities along with gardening areas. Phase 1, which opened in 2015, includes a 2-5-year-old playground area, fragrance garden and sound garden.

(630) 942-5610 (309) 888-2551

Therapy Yoga Gymnastics Rocks

Special Olympics Illinois Young Athletes is a gross motor training program for children with and without intellectual disabilities between 2-7. Young Athletes focuses on motor development and preparation for participation in future sports. Young Athletes trainings and events happen at the local, regional and state level. For information

Provides pediatric Occupational and Physical Therapy in fun gymnastic and yoga centers. Certified therapists create fun individualized sessions that use gymnastics equipment and yoga activities to improve physical, social, cognitive and life skills.

Provides sports training and competition for children (8 and older) and adults with intellectual disabilities. Check website for competition schedule and locations in Chicago area.

SUPPORT Celebrate Differences 5375 Route 34, Suite 4 Oswego (630) 885-3006

An all-inclusive community resource center, welcoming all children and their families regardless of age or disability. Offers informative monthly workshops, sibling workshops, a resource library, an annual summer and holiday party, a Next Chapter book club, play groups and more. Connects families through outreach projects, social activities and social networking.

Center for Independent Futures 1015 Davis St. Evanston (847) 328-2044

A not-for-profit organization that helps individuals with disabilities and their families access the skills and opportunities to realize full lives.

Family Resource Center on Disabilities 11 E. Adams St., Suite 1002 Chicago (312) 939-3513 (312) 939-3519 TTD

Provides information and support for families, free seminars, Youth Advocacy Project and Parent-ToParent Training Project.

Illinois Parents of Adults with Developmental Disabilities (IPADD) Unite 3104 Treesdale Court Naperville (630) 922-3232

Closed Facebook group for parents of teens and adults to share online support and resources specific to Illinois on topics including transition, employment, self-employment or supported employment, volunteerism, day programming, funding, legislative advocacy, housing, social security, Medicaid and Medicare and transportation.

The Orchard 1330 N. Douglas Ave. Arlington Heights (847) 392-4840 theorchardarlingtonheights. org

Children (birth-12th grade) are included in classes with trained volunteers while parents attend the worship services Sundays at 9:30 a.m. Special Needs Parent Network meets for prayer and support the first Monday of the month. Childcare provided. Additional locations at 1301 S. Grove Ave., Barrington, (847) 852-2200, and 716 E. George St. Itasca, (630) 773-1883,

Protected Tomorrows Charities 103 Schelter Road Lincolnshire (847) 522-8086 protectedtomorrows

Not-for-profit dedicated to helping families with special needs optimize the lifelong care of their loved ones. The mission

South Chicago Parents & Friends 10241 S. Commercial Ave. Chicago (773) 734-2222

Supports people of South Deering, South Chicago, South Shore, Pullman and Roseland communities with developmental disabilities, enabling them to become productive, valued members of society by allowing them to learn, work, play and live just like others.

Supporting Illinois Brothers and Sisters 3800 N. Lake Shore Drive, #3E Chicago (708) 989-3619

Nonprofit organization providing support to siblings of people with disabilities in Illinois by connecting them with information, networking opportunities and resources to enhance

Locations in Chicago, Libertyville, Niles and Northbrook (773) 991-7316

PACTT Learning Center |

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is to provide resources, research and education for families of individuals with disabilities and the elderly.

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SUPPORT Park Lawn Association

the quality of life for their entire family. For more information, e-mail

10833 S. La Porte Ave. Oak Lawn (708) 425-3344

The Apraxia Connection

Non-profit offering a variety of supports, including adult developmental training, residential facilities, vocational training, supported employment and more. Park Lawn’s mission is to provide services that promote independence, choice and access to community for people with developmental disabilities.

The volunteer board of directors, advisors and helping hands of the community strive to connect neighborhood resources and information on apraxia and associated disorders with the individuals, families, therapists, educators and other professionals who need them. 150 N. Michigan Ave. Suite 2100 Chicago (800) 955-2445


Strives to empower parents and health professionals with free educational resources on the benefit of early detection and early therapy for children’s motor, sensory and communication development. materials (brochures, handouts, videos, etc.) are available on its website.

1815 S. Wolf Road Hillside (708) 236-0979

Provides an innovative, family-centered approach to inclusive education and community life that supports kids with disabilities and their families. Offers such services as career training, occupational therapy and speech therapy.

The Arc of Illinois

Association for Individual Development (AID)

20901 La Grange Road Suite #209 Frankfort (815) 464-1832

309 W. New Indian Trail Court Aurora (630) 966-4000

Nonprofit, communitybased organization serving more than 5,000 individuals throughout Kane, Kendall, DeKalb, DuPage, suburban Cook and Will Counties. More than 20 programs are available for individuals with physical or developmental disabilities, and those in need of behavioral health services or crisis intervention. CARF accredited and licensed by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.



Special Gifts Theatre Esperanza Community Services 520 N. Marshfield Ave. Chicago (312) 243-6097

Nonprofit organization that provides instruction and services to children and adults with developmental disabilities, including autism and behavioral

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needs, to help them become as independent as possible. It provides a full array of services, including a private, therapeutic day school for students age 5-21, an adult day program and vocational skill-building program, a 24-hour residential program that supports independent living and an in-home case

management program.

Illinois Spina Bifida Association 2211 N. Oak Park Ave. Oak Park (773) 444-0305

Nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life of people with Spina Bifida through direct services, information, referral,

research and public awareness.

Learning Disabilities Association of Illinois 10101 S. Roberts Road Suite 205 Palos Hills (708) 430-7532

Serves families of people with learning disabilities throughout Illinois.

A clearinghouse of information committed to empowering people with disabilities to achieve full participation in community life through informed choices.

EDUCATION Brain Balance Achievement Center 1101 S. Milwaukee Ave. Suite 105 Vernon Hills (847) 821-1328

Works with children with developmental and


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learning disorders such as ADD, ADHD, Asperger’s, dyslexia, Tourette’s, PDD and Autism Spectrum Disorders. An individualized program that uses a comprehensive, multi-faceted approach designed to address each child’s specific deficiencies while combining proper nutritional guidance.

400 N. County Farm Road Wheaton (630) 665-8169

Provides computer training that teaches disabled students who demonstrate special accessibility requirements and low income levels how to use computers to read, write, continue an education or advanced skills needed for the workplace.

City Elementary 1100 E. Hyde Park Blvd. Chicago (872) 240-2489 Easter Seals Metropolitan Chicago 17300 Ozark Ave. Tinley Park (708) 802-9050

Classrooms are structured to provide small group instruction for children on the autism spectrum, those with significant attention issues, and those with sensoryintegration challenges who use language to communicate.

Provides employment opportunities for people living with autism spectrum disorders and other disabilities. Team members are integrated into all aspects of business operations and receive individualized training with customized supports. Part of Easter Seals Chicagoland.

Cognitive Solutions Learning Center Inc 2409 N. Clybourn Ave. Chicago (773) 755-1775

Specializes in learning disabilities and ADHD, offering educational and psychological testing, one-on-one tutoring, neurofeedback, psychotherapy and executive functions training.

Easter Seals Gilchrist - Marchman Child Development Center 1312 S. Racine Ave. Chicago (312) 492-7402

Full-day, full-year inclusive early childhood and education services for children six weeks to 5 years. State certified, credentialed and bilingual teaching staff.

Elim Christian Services 13020 S. Central Ave. Crestwood (708) 389-0555

Institute on Disability School serves students 3-22 who have developmental and/or physical disabilities.

Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. School for Exceptional Children St. Coletta’s of Illinois 18350 Crossing Drive Tinley Park (708) 342-5200

Therapeutic school that accepts students fourth-grade through high school who have severe to profound emotional disturbances, learning disabilities, autism and/or other health needs.

Soaring Eagle Academy 800 Parkview Blvd. Lombard (630) 323-2900

The vision is to provide a positive school environment where students become independent through a variety of experiences focused on academics, community involvement, occupational skills and social emotional learning.

A not-for-profit, Illinois State Board of Education-approved therapeutic day school for students ages 3-21, with autism and disorders of relating and communicating.

Safe Haven School

The Cove School

906 Muir Ave. Lake Bluff (847) 604-3903

350 Lee Road Northbrook (847) 562-2100

A private K-12 day school that serves students with learning disabilities. Children from diverse backgrounds receive an individualized educational experience. Cove provides students with customized learning strategies to complete an academic curriculum, while at the same time facilitating the development of students’ social and emotional skills and self-advocacy.

six years of age in a nurturing environment where children learn and grow together. The Lily Garden is committed to fostering independence, compassion, knowledge and respect for children of all abilities.

The Lily Garden Child Care Center

515 Busse Hwy. Park Ridge (847) 292-0870

830 S. Addison Ave. Villa Park (630) 261-6283

The Lily Garden provides child care services for children six weeks through


Helps people with special needs and developmental needs through residential housing, job placement and workshops. |

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National Louis University Path to Academics, Community and Employment (P.A.C.E.) 122 S. Michigan Ave. Suite 3013 Chicago (312) 261-3281

P.A.C.E. is a three-year, post-secondary program offered by National Louis University, designed to meet the transitional needs for young adults with multiple intellectual, learning and developmental disabilities.

We Grow Dreams, Inc. 1055 W. Washington St. West Chicago (630) 293-0100

Training and employment for people with disabilities through the greenhouse and garden center.

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Special Olympian goes for the gold BY ELIZABETH DIFFIN


ommy Shimoda may be non-verbal, but he doesn’t need his assistive speech device to communicate how he feels about winning a gold medal at the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games; the smile on his face says it all.

Tommy, 25, has been participating in the special recreation program at Mt. Greenwood Park since he was 5. His first sport was swimming. Since then, he’s added 16 other sports to his repertoire, including his favorite,

gymnastics, and the one that has brought him widespread acclaim, speed skating. “Tommy is willing to do anything and try anything. But when he’s out there competing, and it doesn’t matter

Photos courtesy of Special Olympics Chicago

Tommy with dad Thomas, brother Clark and mom Barb. 40


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Tommy Shimoda won gold in 500-meter speed skating at the Special Olympics World Winter Games. what it is, he’s glowing,” says his mother, Barbara De Kerf. “Sports give him a great sense of purpose and a great sense of accomplishment.” But ask Tommy, who has autism, why he likes speed skating, and the answer is simple: “Fast,” he says, using the talker. Tommy won not just one, but two medals at the World Winter Games: a gold in the 500-meter race and a bronze in the 777meter. His gold medal race took only 71 seconds. And when he won, he made sure to flash a thumbs-up to his mom, one of their regular rituals. For the entourage of family and friends who traveled with him, the whole experience can only be described as “surreal.” “The feelings are

overwhelming,” his coach and Mt. Greenwood Park’s special recreation director Lisa Mulcrone says. “He’s just a great athlete overall. Every sport he does, he does extremely well.” De Kerf says the win was especially meaningful because the community had a send-off party for Tommy and his fellow athletes before they left for Graz, Austria, and she could still feel that support as she watched her son cross the finish line at the World Games. “I couldn’t put a face to anybody that was there, but it was almost like they were sitting in the stands with us and they were still cheering,” she says. Even when Tommy returned from Austria, gold medal safely in hand (even now, it’s never far away), those feelings didn’t go


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Tommy Shimoda, 25

Hometown: Mt. Greenwood, Chicago Family: Parents Thomas and Barbara, brother, Clark, 22 In mom’s words: “We, as parents of children with special needs, are very guilty of overlooking our chil dren’s abilities. They have many abilities.” “We can all go back to ‘it takes a village.’ This is my village and my son is a way better child than I could have ever made him.”

away. In fact, the whirlwind had only just begun. “Boom, he comes back from Austria and it’s like one good thing after the other just starts happening,” De Kerf says. In July, he received an honorary ESPY from ESPN, one of 25 Special Olympians to receive the award. In October, he was inducted into the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame, the first Special Olympian to be enshrined beside legends like Ryne Sandberg and Bobby Hull. And while he was at the induction ceremony, he received another accolade: Tommy Shimoda has his own Wheaties box. “We’re always trying to pave the way, and Tommy definitely did that, just to get our athletes involved and included in things.

Photos courtesy of Special Olympics Chicago

(Top) Tommy Shimoda received his own Wheaties box at the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame induction, (left) Tommy with his mom, (right) Tommy with fellow Hall of Fame inductee Jonathan Toews. It was fantastic,” Mulcrone says. The cherry on top of the experience was that Tommy got to meet one of his favorite athletes, fellow Hall of Fame inductee Jonathan Toews. Toews—whom Tommy calls “Mr. Jonathan” because his talker can’t pronounce “Toews” correctly—took a photo with him and introduced Tommy to his parents. Tommy, who also skates

with the Chicago Blackhawks Special Hockey team, still lights up when he remembers that moment. As things begin to quiet down after a whirlwind year, De Kerf and Mulcrone both hope that the strides that Tommy has made in sports will continue to raise awareness of special needs programming and to open up even more opportunities for him

and his fellow athletes. “I’m hoping that the younger kids are seeing the same thing in Tommy that he saw in some of our older athletes,” De Kerf says. “A role model.” No matter what happens, one thing is for certain: Tommy Shimoda may not speak much, but thanks to speed skating, it seems that he has finally found his voice. |

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Chicago Special Parent Winter 2018  
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