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.
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.
We closed out 2019 in style, with a celebration of the end-of-year holidays and our annual Parent-Client Luncheon.
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!
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!
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.
Last month, we celebrated our annual Halloween party. The festive fête featured a live music performance with Halloween-themed songs, clients decked out in costumes, and treat bags filled with milk and dark chocolates for everyone. When Rimland celebrates Halloween, the party is all about having fun, celebrating with others, and getting into the spooky spirit!
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.
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!
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!
Summer is in full swing and Rimland’s gardens are blooming!
The gardens are thriving at our residences and at the Developmental Training Center, and it has been such a pleasure to see our clients’ hard work paying off. In addition to growing herbs and potting plants, clients are also growing fresh vegetables and fruits—including tomatoes, zucchini, kale, and collard greens—to enjoy.
On top of the terrific benefits of outdoor activity and creating a sustainable food source, these gardens make Rimland properties all the more beautiful.
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!
Did you know that more than 80% of counties in the United States do not have a diagnostic center for autism?
Follow the link for the story of the many geographical barriers to receiving a diagnosis of autism, as well as associated services.
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.
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.
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!
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.
For more than a decade, April 2 has been designated as World Autism Awareness Day by the United Nations to help raise public support for research and education initiatives and to increase overall understanding and acceptance of individuals with autism. At Rimland, of course, every day is an opportunity to support individuals with autism and raise awareness in the public sphere.
According to Psychology Today magazine, here are three things we can do to support individuals with autism and their families:
- Don’t Judge – Individuals with autism may be judged by others who don’t understand the autism spectrum and attendant behaviors. No matter how constructive you think your advice or criticism may be, be aware that expressing your opinion may do more harm than good.
- Support Research Initiatives – Donate to autism research efforts as you are able. Share information with people you know. Keep abreast of the current research topics and findings.
- Be There – Some individuals or families may feel isolated and alone when dealing with autism in their midst. They may appreciate a sympathetic ear or someone to ask how they are. Show interest and be ready to listen and offer help where needed.
On Saturday, March 22, five individuals from Rimland participated in Special Olympics Illinois’ Region B Swimming (Aquatics) meet at Lake Forest College in Lake Forest, Illinois. Events featuring Rimland participants included the 25 meter freestyle and the 25 meter backstroke. Two swimmers received silver medals and one received gold for their efforts in their respective events.
Competing in the Special Olympics is a longstanding tradition at Rimland and one we look forward to every year. Participants train throughout the year by attending swim classes and exercising. It’s terrific fun for the swimmers but also for the family and staff members who cheer them on. Congratulations to all the participants and their supporters!
Region B Spring Games, including track and field events, will take place May 4 at Prospect High School in Mt. Prospect, Illinois. We hope to see you there!
Though the range of the autism spectrum is certainly vast, one universal issue individuals with autism face has to do with housing. While Rimland is has been a leader in the effort to provide supportive housing for adults with autism in Chicagoland, other areas of the state are beginning to take action to create housing options for adults with autism. Normal, IL, will be hosting a meeting on March 19th to address the lack of housing for adults with autism in McClean county and to develop action items that will move toward solving the housing crisis in the country. There are an estimated 3,000 individuals with autism in McLean County, and Rimland is glad to see the Normal community taking action to help support these individuals just as we do here in the the Chicagoland area. Follow the link for more on what’s happening in Normal. https://www.pantagraph.com/news/local/meetings-in-normal-to-explore-future-housing-options-for-adults/article_32e88e3a-8646-5340-aaa8-17022e5a4acf.html
Rimland provides housing and services for the most severe cases of autism, but waiting lists for such services can be lengthy and the need is growing. Follow the link to learn about a plan developed by some moms in Wisconsin to ensure that their adult children with autism have a home of their own.
Rimland’s 2018 holiday cards are available for purchase. Each of these cards were designed by Rimland clients and we are so proud to share them with you. If you would like to purchase them, please contact email@example.com to make arrangements. Variety packs are available for $10.00 and include snowmen, Christmas trees, cornucopias, reindeer, and more!
A Chicago-area equine therapy program was recently featured on NBC Chicago news as part of their Giving Tuesday initiatives to help raise funds for charitable programming. Equine therapy offers many benefits to adults with autism, such as improved coordination, exercise skills, vocational training, and more. In the past, Rimland individuals have taken part in horseback riding with a similar program called Equestrian Connection in Lake Forest, Illinois. Clients have been able to experience the benefits of this type of therapy and also enjoy the activity as a fun outing. We are so pleased to see increased awareness around this unique form of support for adults with autism. See the NBC Chicago story here.
Rimland has partnered with two fantastic Chicago organizations to celebrate the culinary gifts of one of our clients. Doors Open Dishes is a unique initiative that pairs individuals with disabilities with chefs at local restaurants across Chicago. Gold Coast standout Nico Osteria is one of Chicago’s premiere Italian restaurants. Doors Open Dishes engaged Nico Osteria’s chef de cuisine, Bill Montage, to meet and work with Rimland client and cooking enthusiast Carrissia to create a dish inspired by Carrissia’s favorite ingredients and flavors. The experience was captured in this video and the dish they created is currently on the menu at Nico Osteria! Throughout the month of November, visit Nico Osteria during lunchtime hours to taste the delicious dish that Chef Bill and Carrissia have created while supporting adults with autism. Nico Osteria will be donating proceeds from sales of the dish to Rimland! Are you hungry yet? We’ll see you in November at Nico Osteria!