New school designed for students with Autism

Easterseals' Learning Academy is a sensory-friendly environment

GERMANTOWN HILLS, Ill. -

A new school is getting ready to open its doors for the first day of class.

 

The Easterseals Learning Academy is a school designed specifically for children with Autism.

 

Easterseals says the idea to open a learning academy has been in the works for about a year now. The organization already has a learning center for 3 to 5-year-olds that has been a huge success for its graduates. Easterseals saw a need to grow with its students and the Learning Academy was born.

 

"Some of the students that we have the visual from the incandescent lights can be a little too bright for them and can cause some of the anxiety." Learning Academy Teacher, Jennie Turner, explains.  

 

Turner's classroom looks a little different than what you might expect.

 

"In a regular classroom it's a little more difficult because it is so structured and you have to get through the specific curriculum, but, with our curriculum, we can kind of play around a little bit, you notice they're getting stressed, they can go play, come back." Turner says.

 

Her elementary classroom, along with 2 others for intermediate and secondary students, inside the old Germantown Hills Elementary School, is custom-designed for children with Autism, from the sensory-friendly lighting and toys to room dividers.

 

"I think the differentiator is our staff, our faculty and staff, who have been trained to educate and support students who have Autism to really help them through some of the challenges that they experience on a daily basis." Chief Operation Officer at Easterseals of Central Illinois, Kevin Dill, says.

 

Dill calls the need for the Learning Academy tremendous.

 

"We really feel like we’re meeting a need by opening this school up and my guess is it's really going to grow from there." Dill says.

 

30 students will start school here on September 5th, with the goal of one day returning to their home schools.

 

"The ultimate goal will be for students who attend to be able to gain skills that they can transition back to their home schools and be successful there." Dill says.

 

The State Board of Education approved the Learning Academy for 30 students, but Easterseals hopes it will continue to grow.

 

Students will be recommended to the program from their home schools, who will also pick up the tuition costs.


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