When the school day's over, it's often a challenge for working parents to find after-school care for children with autism. So last year, Giant Steps School in Lisle decided to start The Rec Center, a program for after-school, days off and summer break just for kids on the autism spectrum.
"Children and families really struggle when there are breaks in school," says Susan Hamre, autism training center director for Giant Steps.
Kids 5-22 can participate in The Rec Center, where they take part in cooking, arts and crafts and physical activities. During the full-day camps, children go on field trips to swimming pools, ice skating rinks and local parks. The programs give kids a chance to socialize in a less structured environment than school.
"I wanted to try to build a bridge between the strong structure of school and the less structured home life, where kids will often go to the TV or to their rooms and line up toys over and over," Hamre says. "I wanted them to be engaged with soft structure and learn how to make appropriate choices, how to stop and start activities without having meltdowns. All these impact the home."
The cost of the program depends on the child's level of independence, Hamre says. For example, one day of the full-day camp is $70 for children who can be in a class with a ratio of 1 to 4; $100 for a child who can be supervised with one other; and $165 for a child who requires one-on-one supervision. For more information, call (630) 864-3800.