Camelot Education’s Northwest Center for Autism Marks Successful First Year at Larger Campus
Camelot Education’s Northwest Center for Autism (NWCA) marks its first anniversary in the larger, better-equipped campus in Genoa, IL. The school’s principal, Niamh Welp, said the last year has gone exactly as planned.
“Before the relocation, our expectation was that we would move to a new campus where we had more control over the school’s design in order to meet our students’ needs. We also wanted to move to a welcoming place that was safe for our students to interact in the community,” she said. “Over this past year, all of those expectations have been met! We were able to build components into our programs like the occupational therapy motor room, indoor playground, therapy spaces, gated playground, larger classrooms, more space for learning, and a gym.”
Camelot Education’s Deputy Superintendent for Therapeutic Day Schools, Theresa Mortl Smith, said years of thoughtful consideration went into creating the right spaces.
“We can see the impact in the way students enjoy having more space to learn and play. The hallways are bigger; the classrooms are larger; every area just feels a little roomier and more welcoming,” Mortl Smith said. “Principal Niamh Welp has worked hard this past year to achieve Camelot’s expectations. She works tirelessly to ensure children with autism experience the best possible education they can. Camelot is very proud of her leadership.”
NWCA’s mission is to meet each student’s specific needs with an individualized approach to learning. The school serves students from kindergarten up to age 21 who are either on the autism spectrum or benefit from the structure of the school. The school specializes in using autism strategies for behavior, learning, and uses sensory language.
The move to Genoa from its former site in DeKalb, IL has not only allowed more space for learning and playing; it has allowed the school to grow, now serving students from 38 school districts. Students have taken advantage of the extra space, and one room, in particular, has made an impression. “We have a large gated outdoor play space now, and the students just love that they can run around and get out their energy in a positive way. It’s a big difference from our old space,” Welp noted.
NWCA employs Applied Behavior Analysis, a therapy based on the science of learning and behavior. A component of the program includes using a token economy, which allows students to earn tokens for working and displaying safe habits. Students are able to then exchange those tokens to get breaks in the indoor playground or the motor skills area outside.
“Having more space overall, including larger classrooms, allows our teachers to be more creative when adapting learning spaces,” Welp said. “In our new building, parents and district representatives walk in and feel that welcoming school environment. We always had a strong program, but now we have space and a very nice building that feels like the backbone of the program. We feel so proud of the way we have been able to open up the opportunity for districts and families.”
Another benefit of the move to Genoa is an increase in the number of local job sites and job training opportunities for older teenagers.
“The community has been very welcoming,” Welp said. “We’ve been actively involved with the business community. The police and fire departments have come and helped us with presentations. I can’t say enough about how the community has engaged with us and our students. It has gone well from the beginning. It has proven to be a great opportunity for us to grow as a school, as a member of the community, and in general, having so many more options and opportunities for our students.”
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