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New autism preschool looks to provide children skills to succeed

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autism learning center

It can be a challenge for parents of a child who is differently abled to find academic services that go beyond traditional pre-school. The newly opened Caterpillar Autism Learning Center is offering an alternative to a traditional pre-school like setting for children with autism.

An extension of GBC's services for those with autism, the Caterpillar Autism Learning Center is providing therapy to help children transition into school and garner skills for the rest of their lives.

Located just off of Knoxville Ave in Peoria, GBC's Caterpillar Autism Learning Center is working to provide children with autism the skills to succeed.

"I think one of the most common misconceptions that I've run into is that everyone's Autism looks the same or everybody is going to progress at the same rate and that is not the case." said Danika McGandy, the Chief Operating Officer

The kids will be split between group and individualized instruction using Applied Behavior Analysis.

"ABA therapy is an intensive treatment focus so our hours recommendation generally range 10 hours a week to up to 40 hours a week of therapy." said Mackenzie Craig, a Board Certified Behavioral Analyst and Program Supervisor, "We focus on all skill areas so we work on daily living skills such as toilet training, we do some feeding therapy, we also work on communication so making requests, labeling things, social skills so it's all encompassing of any skill the child may need."

Craig said she has seen first hand the impact their intervention can have.

"I work with a lot of kids who aren't traditionally vocal so they use picture cards or a speech generating device and I've been around to see them learn how to use that technology to communicate and to initiate conversation for the first time." said Craig

"We want to be able to effect not only the individual client but their family and the communities that they live in." said McGandy

In Central Illinois there aren't many groups that provide this type of focused therapy, many parents are used to waiting for services, some wait as long as two years just to get an appointment with a specialist to properly diagnose a child.

"In our area we do have a shortage of providers. There's three providers, us included." said Craig

But through connections with schools and by holding Autism Guidance and Support Workshops they hope to educate the public while meeting the need.

"Being involved in the community has allowed us to reach families that we might not have been able to traditionally reach or serve." said McGandy

Kaitlin Pearson

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