Giant Steps' Canopy program serves adults with autism

May 23, 2013 (CHICAGO)

With the rate of autism growing, the demand for services increases. Giant Steps Canopy program is starting to fulfill those needs.

Located in Lisle, Giant Steps has been educating children from pre-school to high school for 11 years.

"The day they turn 22 services are cut off and the child, the adult is required to stay home," Bridgette O'Connor, president and CEO at Giant Steps, said. "There are a lot of development disabilities programs but there was nothing Autism specific and without knowledge of Autism we took all of those tools and all those components and developed Canopy."

Canopy is an individualized designed program that meets Monday through Friday.

"We have individuals schedules for every student so if a student were particularly interested in computers we have that ability......there true vocational skills ........We do is provide life enrichment opportunities and so they're able to go out to a restaurant and order off a menu they're able to go to a park district programs," O'Connor said.

Although the Canopy program is for people 22 years and older, they have some students who are between 18 and 22.

"The school district provides that programming but they participate in Canopy part of the time is present with our high school group and part of our time is spent with the adults," O'Connor said. "At the age of 22 they can start full-time in Canopy but the districts no longer pays for that program so it becomes the parent's responsibility to pay the tuition for the program."

"They can stay in Canopy for the rest of their life," she said. "What we are doing right now is reaching out and looking for ways to fund the program."

Zach Mickey, 18, is in the program part time.

"I vacuum, sometimes. I clean table sometimes," Mickey. "I'm excited looking forward to coming here."

"This is something that really could change the way adults with Autism live and we're excited to be a part of it," O'Connor said.

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