Center safe environment for children with autism

February 12, 2012 6:12:33 AM PST
A Chicago-area mother started a play center for her daughter and friends who have autism. Her goal is to expand so other children with autism can have a safe environment to be themselves.

Located in the lower level of an office building in downtown Glen Ellyn, Kaitlin's Hideout is tucked away in the corner.

Kaitlin's mom, Lisa Kelly, opened the center a year ago.

"We try to bring the families together so the kids can play and parents get together as much as we can," Kelly said.

Being a mother of a child who is at the evere end of the autism spectrum, Kelly understands the importance of having a place for her daughter to socialize and play.

"Sometimes, when they go to bigger play centers, the children do not understand their actions, their behaviors, their play skills," she said. "They don't understand (why) they are not interacting with them.

"This way, they can just be themselves and have a safe comfortable place to play."

Daughter Kaitlin is 11. She was diagnosed with autism eight years ago.

Kelly has been trying for years to find a place for her daughter where she can also meet other parents to share resources.

"If I wait and wait, I may never have that opportunity, so I just went for it and it was very difficult to find a place and this was perfect for us," she said. "We do holiday parties, birthday parties and then as far as the kids playing, we try to engage them as much as possible.

"We can make all sorts of adjustments depending on the child. Some of the children are very active and want to play in like a busy environment and some children need to be calmed and we can make it very calm for them."

A $10 donation lets children to stay as long as they want.

"We are open seven days a week, but we would love to expand that into the evening as well," Kelly said. "We definitely want to grow into other locations as well.

"We're doing our best to get the word out, newspaper articles, social media, just going out in the community and posting information in places where families go and have special needs children."

There is also a gallery of art produced by children with autism at Kaitlin's Hideout. All artwork is for sale.

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