The Helping Hand School for Children with Autism is a year-round therapeutic day program for students with a primary diagnosis of Autism. School hours are from 9:00am to 2:00pm on Monday through Friday. The students’ home school districts approve and pay for placement and provide transportation. The School for Children with Autism is approved by the Illinois State Board of Education and a partner of the Autism Society of Illinois.
The ultimate goal is for each student to become as independent as possible and improve their ability to function at home, in school, and in the community. The school team works with the family to craft specific and individualized goals for each student.
The curriculum content for the program emphasizes basic skills that are important for children with autism to acquire. School staff works with the family to identify functional goals such as attending to elements in the environment essential for learning, recognizing others, understanding and using language, functioning appropriately with objects, and utilizing appropriate social skills.
We create an interactive and supportive team that consists of family, home school district staff, and Helping Hand Center professionals. The school is truly a therapeutic day program with clinical services, such as behavior analysis and occupational and speech therapy, woven into the classroom. Direct Instruction includes strategies that use functional communication training and a structured teaching method with data-tracking on a daily basis in order to determine if each student is making progress.
Teachers are licensed special education teachers and instructional teaching assistants are specifically trained to work with students with autism, and, in most cases, hold a bachelor’s degree. Clinicians are experienced and provide clinical guidance to the rest of the team. Behavior analysts ensure that staff understand and respond to behaviors in a way that helps the students engage in the environment in an appropriate way. Therapy goals are incorporated into each student’s individual curriculum and carried out throughout each day.
The learning environment at the Helping Hand Center School for Children with Autism is structured, supportive, and student-centered. All students receive truly individualized education plans, as well as direct attention from the teachers, assistants, behavior analysts and clinicians. Each child with autism is a unique individual with different motivators and learning channels. All interventions, teaching strategies, and supports are designed to meet the specific learning styles and motivators of the individual child.
Students are assessed to clearly identify the specific learning strengths and barriers in order to design effective intervention strategies. Each child’s program is continually adapted based on the progress that is being made.
Family involvement is critical to the success of the program. The school utilizes home visits to help generalize student learning. Family training and support are offered to assure a successful partnership. Families develop knowledge, skills, and in-home programming so their child can generalize skills acquired at school into the home, and participate more actively as a part of their family.
In the field of autism research, there are commonly agreed upon universal best practices. The Helping Hand School for Children with Autism is dedicated to staying current with these best practices in the field. We strive to apply research-based methods in a structured classroom setting that combines education, functional skills training and clinical services for our students. Our program is language- and behavior-based, while also maintaining a person-focused, family-centered, and community-based approach that adheres to the individual needs of each child.