Since opening Kaitlin’s Hideout, a center offering support for children and families with autism, Lisa Kelly has learned many things about autism. The main things are that no two children are alike and parents cannot get enough support.
Soon, the center will begin offering support to more families throughout the area, adding a teen/tween Asperger social skills group.
Kelly, whose daughter Kaitlin has been diagnosed with autism, opened the center in June 2011 to provide a place for children to play without fear of judgment from others and for parents to meet and offer support.
“Kids can play and be themselves and not be stared at and not be ridiculed,” Kelly said. “People will come and say, 'I never thought this would happen to me.' … Whatever we can do to help them feel better and help the kids find a safe place (is important)."
Parents of children with autism deal with challenges the average parent cannot fathom, she said. And, taking children to spend time out at the park with other families isn’t typical for families with autistic children.
“We don’t fit. Our lives are not normal,” she said.
The number of families that visit Kaitlin’s Hideout varies and has periodic peaks and valleys, Kelly said. But, since opening, more and more families have started to regularly visit the Crescent Boulevard location. The hideout draws families mostly from Glen Ellyn, Wheaton and Naperville, but families visit from around the area.
Kelly is in the process of attaining nonprofit status for the center and hopes that once that is attained, it will become easier to fundraise and apply for grants and donations.
Right now, the center relies on donations ($10 is suggested per visit) to help defray costs. Kelly continues to work part-time to make ends meet.
As she awaits her nonprofit status, Kelly is branching out to provide a place for children with Asperger syndrome to gather.
The first gathering will be held Saturday. Kelly said she was able to find a special-education teacher with a master’s degree who was willing to volunteer time at the center and run the group. So far, six people have signed up.
Kelly hopes the group will allow kids to learn how to socialize. She plans to address issues such as how to make friends or what to do about bullying. By bringing the children together, she hopes they will be able to offer coping skills to one another.
“We are hoping to get it to a point we where can get the kids to be excited to come here and meet friends,” she said.
The kick-off for the Asperger social skills group will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday at Kaitlin’s Hideout, 526 Crescent Blvd. Suite 1 and 2, lower level of the Little Shops building. To make a reservation to attend, email email@example.com or call 630-460-0878.