A Special Place for Children with Autism in Chicago: Kaitlin’s Hideout
Outside the hustle and bustle of the Windy City you’ll find a special place for children with Autism. Here, in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, they can take a quiet break, enjoy a computer game or engage their sensory system with lights and sounds. While it’s not a speech therapy center, Kaitlin’s Hideout provides what are sometimes the most essential elements for a child with special needs: high interest materials, comfortable space and sensory stimulation.
The space was created by a mother, Lisa Kelley after taking diligent notes and doing research on therapies that best supported her daughter, Kaitlin, over her many years of therapy. What makes this place so special is the feeling and experience of having a parent behind it. Kelly is not a trained professional in special needs, rather a mother aiming to provide a safe and comforting community space for parents and children who can sometimes feel isolated and lost in a sea of overwhelming sensory needs, IEP meetings and treatment methods.
For $10, children are free to roam from one play area to another with a safe space. The space includes swings, pillows, a ball pit, musical and sensory toys, lights, computers, CD players, chalkboards, video games and televisions. The lights are dimly lit and windows covered with drapes to appeal to the children’s senses. Sensory regulation is a significant challenge for children with disabilities, and it is often difficult to determine what feelings or senses might affect them. Are their shoes too tight? Is there stomach too full? While these answers aren’t easy to answer, most therapists agree that these children need access to toys and items that will help their sensory system with the appropriate input. From there, when regulated, children are often better able to participate in speech therapy or other tasks.
This month, Kaitlin’s has begun offering social skills groups for teens and tweens with Aspergers syndrome on weekends. Groups are $10 and focus on role playing, brain storming and how to make friends.
Special Activities and Events for Kids include:
- Birthday/Holiday Parties
- Special “targeted” needs programs
- Yoga therapy nights
- School community outing trips
- Community trips for residents of several “group homes”
While children play, parents can join in or sit on the couch and talk with other parents. Families often arrange “play dates” for their children to meet up at the same time. The Hideout offers advice and resources for parents. A resource library is available to parents with frequently updated materials and according to the website, Kaitlin’s Hideout strives to stay up to date on both traditional and non-traditional treatment options for children in order to provide guidance and support families in making decisions about their child’s treatments.
Special Events for Parents Include:
- Massachusett’s Early Intervention
- Parent Support “mini workshops”
For the Community:
Kaitlin’s Hideout is also a gallery for the display and sale of art produced by children with Autism. Proceeds from the sale of her art support the Hideout, with ten percent donated to Autism research.
The center is run primarily on donations – both monetarily and of materials such as toys. According to the website, Kaitlin’s Hideout has recently received non-profit status.
Kaitlin’s Hideout 526 Crescent Blvd., Glen Ellyn (in the “Little Shops”)
$10 per visit Hours: 10:15 a.m. – 2:15 p.m.
Monday-Friday: 11 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Saturday; noon-4 p.m. Sunday.