A New Year’s Message from CEO Pamela Watson

Dear Rimland Family and Friends,

I would like to kick off the new year by extending a heartfelt thank you to all of our stakeholders who have helped shape the support we provide to adults with classic autism. We remain committed to achieving ambitious goals in the year 2020. 

The majority of adults supported by Rimland Services experience a higher severity of autism characteristics and are particularly vulnerable to a defined Quality of Life ((QoL). Our overriding objectives this year will be focused on increasing access to community-based living options and providing support to improve QoL.

We will address the following urgent priorities: improving healthcare, increasing awareness of how sensory input and social challenges will impact support across the lifespan, and integrating technology-assisted support with personal direct supports. 

Even as we pursue these ambitious goals on behalf of the individuals we support, we are elevating the standard for evaluating successful outcomes. We will also partner with stakeholders to identify and develop long-term strategies for supporting the autism community in the future.

With intention and forethought, our team of professionals teach, advocate for, sustain, and are steadfast in their commitment to the individuals we support.

Once again, thank you for the vital role you play in our day-to-day services.

Best wishes for the New Year,

Pamela Y. Watson

What We Can Learn from the Parents of High-Support Autistic Individuals

Having a disabled child is not particularly rare: Fourteen percent of U.S. public school students in 2017-2018 received special education services. Yet our society rarely addresses disability as a real parenting possibility, which means non-disabled parents like me are usually in the dark about best practices for raising a child with a disability. This state of ignorance is unfair to everyone involved and has made countless kids and parents miserable.

It really doesn’t have to be this way, though. After my son was diagnosed as autistic when he was 3, we embarked through a long, painful learning process to get to a state of acceptance and (relative) peace. No one should have to repeat our steep learning curve, so I’m sharing what made all the difference for us: Discovering, and listening to the insights of autistic adults.

Parents need to hear from people who have lives similar to what our children will experience. These adults can warn us about avoidable mistakes, and they can counter our assumptions about what it means to live a good life — even when that life is complicated.

What autism researchers and advocates want for people on the spectrum
An individual with autism and his mother work with researchers Wendy J. Ross, MD at Jefferson Health’s Center for Autism and Neurodiversity

Greta Thunberg has recently drawn attention for being named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year and she has openly talked about how her Asperger’s syndrome diagnosis makes her different, and how being different is a superpower.

In politics, Democratic candidate Joshua Collins is running for Congress and would be the first openly autistic member if elected.

With more people on the autism spectrum being open about their diagnoses, we talked to a researcher and an advocate about what should be part of the discussion around autism today.

Holiday Happenings
The welcome table.

We closed out 2019 in style, with a celebration of the end-of-year holidays and our annual Parent-Client Luncheon.  

A time to celebrate and to reflect.

At the end of November, we had another fun celebration with our traditional Thanksgiving party. Each year, we cater all of our clients’ favorite Thanksgiving foods such as turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and of course some apple pie for dessert! Staff pitched in to decorate our Developmental Training Center with streamers and posters, and it was so nice to see everyone get dressed up for this special meal. In the spirit of being thankful, we would like to recognize all of our hardworking employees who worked on Thanksgiving and spent time with their Rimland family. We couldn’t do this without you!

Delivering delicious dishes.

For the Parent-Client Luncheon on December 20, our headquarters was festively adorned with holiday lights and glittery ornaments decorated by our clients and hung brightly from the ceilings. The clients came sharply dressed in holiday attire and ready to celebrate in high fashion! Parent volunteer Mrs. Ann Moltz greeted our visitors at the door and showcased holiday candles and cards created with love by our clients. We were overwhelmed by the generous donations for these small offerings! The conference room was transformed into a winter wonderland complete with special “photo booth walls” for our clients and guests to create some great family memories. After a delicious lunch of mostaccioli, hot Italian beef, and salad (all served by our hardworking staff!), we enjoyed live music presented by Tom Sexton with special performances by some of our clients. Song and dance filled the room with good cheer and smiling faces.  As the day wound down, we sampled homemade goodies and sweets before finally saying goodbye to our visitors. We are so thankful to be able to enjoy the holidays with our Rimland families and friends! Thank you to all who made this a fabulous day!

A Very Giving Tuesday

Last November, we raised $4,084 this year for Giving Tuesday, a new record! Giving Tuesday is a worldwide annual tradition where people donate to nonprofit organizations the Tuesday after Thanksgiving as a way of pledging support to the causes that matter most to them. The funds contributed by donors will help us to provide top of the line support to the individuals we care for in 2020 and beyond. Still interested in contributing? Click the “donate” button in the top right corner of our home page to show your support!

One of our new SMART Boards

We recently installed three SMART Boards at our Developmental Training Center. SMART Boards are state-of-the-art technology that combine visual displays with touch interaction, leading to an engaging educational experience for users. From the classroom to the boardroom, SMART Boards make learning interactive by being hands-on, flexible, and versatile.

They function as digital whiteboards but also have web browsing and apps. We are thrilled to add this exciting feature to our program suite as a new way for our clients to learn and engage with technology at their own pace and access content that is most interesting to them.

Kitchen Addition
The art of eating

We recently added a second kitchen and café to support our growing Developmental Training program. The goal for the café is to provide a safe space for individuals to practice their communal eating and socializing skills in preparation for applying them in real-world scenarios.

In the kitchen

Adding a second café is a positive sign of program expansion at Rimland. We also had a great time painting the Disney-themed murals that decorate the kitchen!

A second cafe

Understanding neurodiversity: a primer

How much do you know about neurodiversity and the neurodiversity movement? How does autism fit into the conversation? Read on for an essential neurodiversity FAQ.

Presidential Candidate Addresses Autism
South Bend Mayor and candidate for president Pete Buttigieg

South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D), a 2020 presidential contender, spoke of the need for educators who understand the nature of autism in an interview Tuesday with the progressive organization Supermajority, adding that increased diagnoses are due to people coming “out of the shadows.”

The Wonderful World of Disney
Right this way!

Our annual client trip took place at the end of September. This year, 11 clients and six staff members traveled to Orlando, Florida, to have some fun at Walt Disney World! A Rimland tradition for more than two decades, the client trip is an experience we are proud to offer.

On our way…

We believe that it is important to provide enjoyable experiences out in the community where clients can relax and rejuvenate, just like anyone else.

At the go-carts

In addition to being a chance to get away and enjoy the area’s attractions and the warm weather, the trip serves as a terrific opportunity for clients to put their skills into practice. They look forward to attending each year and it’s always a blast.

At the beach

Activities this year included go-cart racing, frolicking on the beach, the Hoop-Dee-Do Musical Revue (an entertaining show we attend each year), a tour of Hollywood studios, and Disney’s Spirit of Aloha dinner show.

One of two shows we attended

As an added bonus, clients took a “party bus” to the airport! We just got back, but already, we can’t wait until next year!

Representing Rimland
You Better Shop Around

We have enhanced our snack shop program to include vending machines. We have two primary goals for the snack shop program: to simulate purchasing food in public settings and to encourage healthy eating habits. The vending machines have healthy snacks (and a few treats!), and our clients are enjoying using them. Each client visits the snack shop several times per week to practice their skills, reinforce healthy eating habits, and have a little bit of fun.

Reception Renovations
Ready to welcome you

We recently renovated our reception area, and we are thrilled with the results! As we considered the area where visitors first encounter Rimland, we wanted to ensure that the space represents who we are and reflects renovations we’ve done to the rest of the building. The first order of business was to re-do the flooring. Next, we repainted the walls and adorned them with attractive artwork. Finally, we installed a new reception desk. Post-renovation, the entrance is vibrant, comforting, and most of all, welcoming. HGTV, here we come!

Making Evanston more aware and inclusive
Ebenezer AME Church

On August 10, Executive Director Carolyn Keel represented Rimland at an autism awareness discussion at Evanston’s Ebenezer AME Church. The purpose of the event was to provide a wide range of information on the autism community to members of the church as well as to the broader Evanston community. Carolyn presented information about Rimland’s history and our current programs. Not only is it helpful for Evanston residents to know what autism resources are available, but this kind of exchange is also an important opportunity for the city to be inclusive and to become more aware of its own diversity. Rimland has a longstanding partnership with the city of Evanston and events like these help bring us together. Thank you, Carolyn!

The Gap Map: A New Autism Map points to diagnostic deserts in the US.

Did you know that more than 80% of counties in the United States do not have a diagnostic center for autism?

The Gap Map

Follow the link for the story of the many geographical barriers to receiving a diagnosis of autism, as well as associated services.

Feel of Fortune

We are thrilled to announce that Rimland received a $10,000 Niles Township Grant this year to fund and expand our music and art therapy programs! The Niles Township has been very generous over the years and has provided consistent funding to help us enrich our programming. Past grants have been awarded for physical health initiatives including exercise equipment and gym memberships, but this year we chose to focus on mental health. Funding for the music program will go towards group and private lessons on musical instruments such as guitar and drums. Art funds will go towards expanding our mural program, additional classes, one-to-one attention, and purchasing supplies to create an enhanced sensory experience with different kinds of art. We are extremely grateful for the support of the Niles Township government and look forward to many years of continued partnership for the overall success of our residents.

Soaking Up the Sun
Fun in the sun

Rimland celebrated our annual 4th of July cookout this past month. We love this festive Rimland tradition where we go outside, cook hamburgers and other picnic foods, and enjoy the sunshine. Clients also get dressed up in red, white, and blue, and wear additional decorations such as themed headbands. The weather was beautiful this year and clients even brought blankets to lie in the grass and soak up the sun!

Made in the shade
Kingpins of Rimland!
A Prizewinner!

Special Olympics Region B’s bowling event took place on June 15 at Stardust Bowl in Addison, Illinois. Five Rimland clients participated and did a fantastic job representing Rimland. We are very proud of all who participated and one client even came in second place! Attending Special Olympics is both a tradition and an honor at Rimland, and we are so happy to see so many individuals not only participating, but excelling.

Home and Gardening
Ready to grow!

Now that the weather has turned warm and sunny (sometimes!), clients are beautifying their homes through outdoor gardening projects. Seven clients took a trip to the Meinke Garden Center in Niles to purchase vegetables to plant at one of our homes.

Before going to the garden center, clients spent time in their classes learning about and discussing each vegetable.

Know before you go…

Once they arrived at the garden center, each client was responsible for picking out one vegetable. Their selections included collard greens, kale, large tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, squash, and bell peppers.

A fine choice!

This was a particularly enriching project because it involved education, community engagement, short-term reward (going on an outing), and long-term gratification (the wait until the vegetables are ready to eat). We look forward to incorporating the vegetables into our summer menu!

Planting, growing…
Healthcare Resources for Adults with Autism

Did you know that AASPIRE (Academic Autistic Spectrum Partnership in Research and Education at Portland State University) has developed an online healthcare toolkit for adults with autism, their supporters, and healthcare providers? The website focuses on primary healthcare and is meant to improve the healthcare of autistic adults.

Chocked full of health and medical information, exercise tips, worksheets, and checklists, the site is a trove of useful resources to autistic adults and their family members, health providers, and supporters. Visit the Healthcare Toolkit website now.

Planting Seeds of Spring
Working together

Spring is officially here! Well, sometimes. Amid the occasional resurgences of winter weather in Chicago in recent weeks, Rimland clients managed to engage in some wonderful gardening in front of the Developmental Training (DT) site.

Making things grow

With help from our faithful volunteer Mrs. Moltz, clients planted flowers, strawberries, raspberries, parsley, rosemary, and thyme.

Finishing touches

Gardening is a significant sensory exercise that clients participate in not only at DT but at many of the residences as well. We can’t wait to see the plants bloom (if summer ever arrives)!