Autism Awareness Month a Special Time for Camelot’s Suburban Chicago Therapeutic Day Schools

For Camelot Education’s seven therapeutic day schools in the Chicago suburbs, April is a very exciting time. It’s Autism Awareness Month – and many of Camelot’s students are on the spectrum. Nowhere is that more true than at Camelot’s Northwest Center for Autism (NWCA) in DeKalb.

“For us at Camelot, this month celebrates our students who are on the autism spectrum,” said Camelot’s Vice President for Therapeutic Day Schools, Theresa Mortl Smith. “It is also a special time for us to increase awareness and promote advocacy for autism.

The staff at Camelot find great joy in our students and we want to show the communities we serve that living with an autism diagnosis can mean so much more than an autism label.”

At DeKalb, students participated in an autism awareness rally downtown earlier this month. In addition, older students from the school’s vocational program volunteered at an autism awareness information table at the local HyVee store.

“It was really awesome to talk to others, especially one gentleman that knew someone with autism,” said Anna Hileson, a 19-year-old student in the schools vocational program, which prepares students to transition to work. “I enjoyed helping others to be more aware of autism because I believe awareness should be more known in every state.  It could mean a kid isn’t naughty but just needs help.  It’s important to make others more aware so people can catch autism at an early age so others don’t have to struggle like I and my parents did for years and it gives parents and students a second chance.”

Every year for Autism Awareness Month, Camelot students submit art for a t-shirt for all staff and students to wear. Staff then votes on the final graphic that will go on the shirt.

“Working for Camelot Northwest Center for Autism is an honor for me,” said the school’s executive director, Jennifer Johnson. “Serving and educating children and young adults who have autism is such a wonderful experience.  To be able to see a student make breakthroughs in learning how to communicate with others or navigate through their environment is an awesome and memorable accomplishment.”

Every day this month, NWCA and other Camelot therapeutic day schools are holding student centered sensory and craft activities.

“This is all very rewarding to be involved with,” Mortl Smith said. “The constant evidence-based advances we have made over the past several years are helping our students achieve more than some families may have thought possible.”

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