Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tips for Creating a Functional and Organized Home for Families with Autism

Children diagnosed with autism thrive in a highly structured environment. Creating a functional and organized environment which incorporates predictable routines can reduce environmental “surprises.” Visual cues can be used in the home environment to facilitate independence and eliminate those “surprises” which often overwhelm the child. For example, labels (word + picture) can be placed around the home to indicate the location of personal and household items such as clothing, utensils, and personal hygiene products. Labeling areas of the home that are consistently part of the child’s routine (bathroom, bedroom, and kitchen) will help the child with organization, movement and understanding of physical space, memory, and problem solving. In addition, providing a consistent daily schedule with picture cues will teach independence in the home setting. By facilitating these skills, the child’s development will be positively impacted. As a result, the child will be able to manage predictable routines in the home setting without frustration.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Meet the dream room expert

Talitha Mueller, M.Ed., J.D., has 20 years of experience in the field of special education. She has worked with students, ranging from three to 21 years of age, in both private and public school settings. For the past five years, she has worked as an ABA therapist and special education consultant assisting families of children diagnosed with autism. She is passionate about helping special education students achieve their fullest potential in both school and the community.

Children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders have difficulty with sensory integration. In other words, receiving and processing information perceived by the senses can be challenging and may impact the child’s ability to adapt to situations involving sensory input. A child with an autism diagnosis may be hypersensitive or hyposensitive to sounds, textures, tastes, and movement patterns. Therefore, it is important to control sensory input and avoid overwhelming the child. Soft lighting and colors, as well as reduced clutter, can minimize the level of sensory input. In addition, design elements that can be used to alert or calm the child’s senses can be added to make a room child-friendly. Bean bag chairs, large soft pillows, therapy balls, fiber optics, and a sound system for music can help the child learn to self-regulate.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Home Design Project Addresses Unique Everyday Challenges of Families With Children With Autism

The Hope Institute’s Chicago Dream House Raffle partners with Ethan Allen to create “Dream Room” design for inclusionary families

How can families dealing with a child with autism create a home that meets the unique needs of both the autistic child and other family members?

The Hope Institute for Children and Families and Ethan Allen launch today the “Chicago Dream House Raffle - Dream Room Project” to combine the expertise of Ethan Allen designers with the knowledge of Hope Institute staff. Together, they will create a model home environment that provides unique solutions to everyday challenges faced by families and children with autism and other developmental disabilities. The model rooms will be unveiled on Tuesday, December 20.

The setting for the Dream Room Project is the $1.2 million dream home featured in the Chicago Dream House Raffle, the Hope Institute’s largest fundraising initiative ( All proceeds from the fundraiser will help The Hope Institute provide services to children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other developmental disabilities throughout Illinois. Ethan Allen designers, consulting with Talitha Mueller, an expert on autism spectrum disorder, are working for the next three weeks to design comfortable, family-friendly spaces within the home. The concept of the project is based on Hope Institute’s model of inclusivity, where they encourage spaces designed for children with and without developmental disabilities, rather than an either-or approach.

The final designs will be unveiled on December 20, where families and friends of the autism community will get to walk through each of the rooms and hear directly from the designers involved in the project.

“We’re thrilled to be working with Ethan Allen on the Chicago Dream House Raffle - Dream Room Project. There are more than 29,000 families who have children on the autism spectrum in Illinois. This project is intended to demonstrate how design can help overcome some of the everyday obstacles these families face, and establish a sense of comfort and function while fostering independence,” explains Clint Paul, Interim President and CEO, The Hope Institute for Children and Families.

The Chicago Dream House Raffle - Dream Room Project will be chronicled via Parents and interior design enthusiasts will be able to follow the progress of each of the rooms (family room, eat-in kitchen, dining room and children’s bedroom.) Designers will share their thoughts on the process, and will offer tips on how families can incorporate essential elements in their own homes.

"Ethan Allen is very excited to be a part of the Chicago Dream House initiative,” says Pam Bemus, Regional Design Manager. “Our local designers can’t wait to bring their talents to the family room, eat-in-kitchen and girl’s bedroom, especially knowing that the proceeds from the raffle of this home will benefit such a deserving cause.”

Ethan Allen is also hosting a complimentary Holiday Design Workshop in its Lombard Design Center on Saturday, December 3, from 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Their pros will lead attendees through a series of quick ideas for adding a feeling of warmth and welcome to their homes.

Monday, September 5, 2011


Raffle launches September 7 to raise critical funds for children with

Autism Spectrum Disorders and developmental disabilities

CHICAGO, IL–September 6, 2011 – Some lucky person with a $150 raffle ticket will win an exquisite $1.2 million Hinsdale dream home or $1 million in cash, in the Chicago Dream House Raffle to benefit The Hope Institute for Children and Families. Individuals can purchase their $150 raffle tickets for a chance at the dream house, along with thousands of dollars in cash prizes starting September 7. The grand prize is a stunning 3,225 square-foot home with four bedrooms and four-and-a-half baths, a gourmet chef’s kitchen, private wine cellar, entertainment room and more. All proceeds will help The Hope Institute for Children and Families provide services to children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other developmental disabilities throughout Illinois.

The Hope Institute will sell up to 35,000 tickets for the Dream House Raffle. As incentive to purchase tickets early, the raffle includes cash prizes of up to $25,000 in each of three early bird drawings for tickets purchased before the deadlines of September 30, October 28, and November 18. The grand prize drawing deadline is January 20 and the drawing will be held on Feb 4. For a complete list of prizes, go to

Any individual who buys more than one ticket will be entered into an additional, exclusive Multi-Ticket drawing to win a 2012 Porsche Boxster or $30,000 cash; a European vacation or $10,000 cash; or a Hawaiian vacation or $5000 cash. Multi-ticket purchasers will receive an entry into this drawing with each ticket they purchase. If ticketholders refer a friend to purchase a ticket, they will be included in the Refer-a-Friend drawing and given the chance to win $10,000 cash.

The grand prize Dream House is an exquisite 2-story custom home on a spacious corner lot. It features a luxurious master bedroom and bath, stunning living and dining room with arched doorways, three fireplaces, rich cherry hardwood flooring and French doors throughout. For photos and descriptions of the Dream House, go to

Proceeds for the raffle will help The Hope Institute for Children and Families provide educational, residential and health care services to more than 29,000 Illinois children per year with multiple developmental disabilities, including Autism Spectrum Disorders.

To enter the Raffle, call 1-800-697-7734, or go to and register online. Forms can be mailed to The Hope Institute at 15 East Hazel Dell Lane, Springfield, IL 92712. Entrants may also print online ticket forms and fax them to 312-254-5014. Ticket purchasers must be 18 years or older, have US residency and meet other requirements in the Rules and Regulations as specified on

About the Hope Institute for Children and Families:

For 54 years, The Hope Institute has provided living, learning and health care services to children with multiple developmental and physical disabilities from across Illinois. For more information, go to or call (217) 585-KIDS.

2011-2012 Chicago Dream House Raffle Schedule



Prizes awarded

Sept. 5

Raffle begins

Sept. 21

House media tour (not open to the public)

Sept. 30

Early bird I deadline

(tickets must be purchased

by this date to be eligible for the first drawing)

Oct. 18

Early bird I drawing

$25,000, $10,000, $5000

Oct. 28

Early bird II deadline

Nov. 15

Early bird II drawing

$25,000, $10,000, $5000, $2500, $1000 cash

Nov. 18

Early bird III deadline

Dec. 6

Early bird III drawing

$15,000, $10,000, $1000, $1000, $1000

Jan. 20, 2012

Grand prize drawing deadline

Feb. 4

Grand prize, Multi-ticket, Refer-a-friend drawings

Dream House or $1 million annuity, $25,000, $10,000, $5000, $2000, $1000 (5x), $500 (5x), $150 (335x)


Sunday, July 3, 2011

Patiently some a big thanks!

After weeks of quiet preparation and days of rounding-up and planning a campaign, yesterday I once again led the charge for an online voting campaign for The Hope Institute. So as I patiently wait results on this Sunday Morning, I thought I would share a few thoughts and some numbers.

I'm astounded by the response that we had from our community, supporters and parents. My biggest fear as I woke up on Saturday morning was that the event was taking during a Holiday Weekend, during the summer, and that I had noticed other charities, that had also won Pepsi grants, lose in previous days. However, at the end of the day, weeks of preparation, boots on the ground at events throughout the community, and the relationships we have forged nationwide, combined to carry us to an astonishing 48% of the total vote as the competition closed.

In the coming days, I will be sharing some background into our planning for this event and providing some insight into our campaign metrics. For now, I would like to thank our friends and voting groups from around the nation and provide some early numbers on how we were able to raise awareness.

  • Twitter - Over the course of 2 days, our core supporters and networks included our custom created link in more than 100 tweets reaching an audience of more than 600,000 twitter users.
  • Facebook - Our custom created link was shared more than 1,600 times, and shared through Facebook's "Like" feature an addition 825 times.
  • More than 760 people commented on that custom link.
Please note that the above numbers only represent the number of times that our community shared the custom link that I created to help measure and monitor our outreach efforts, along with providing a direct link for smartphone users to use. Those numbers do not include the sharing metrics from our websites and content posted directly from the Toyota Application.

As voting wrapped up last night, the only thought running through my head, was that of gratitude for our community of supporters and network of do-gooders who went out there way during a holiday weekend to help a local charity.

Thank You to everyone who not only helped Hope to earn a new accessible minivan, but as importantly, for the incredible amount of awareness that you created yesterday.

Friday, July 1, 2011

A Toyota for Hope

Vote For Hope on July 2, 2011

in the Toyota
100 Cars for Good Program

and you can help provide safe, reliable transportation
for Hope's children.


How to Vote

*Voting begins at 5:00 A.M.

*Voting ends at 11:00 P.M.

*You must be a registered Facebook user to vote.


To Access The Voting Application


Good for desktop users...


A) Go to


B) If you are not a fan of Toyota the application should appear on the screen. If you are already a fan of Toyota, you will need to click on the "100 Cars for Good" tab on the left side of the fan page.


C) You must "Like" Toyota to use the app.


D) Click on the "Vote Today" button.


E) Check the box next the word "vote" for The Hope Institute!


F) A screen will pop-up asking you to confirm your vote.


G) Click Confirm and PLEASE share on your wall.


Good for smartphone users...


A) Scan the QR Code below:


B) The QR code will take you to the application in your browser.


C) You must "Like" Toyota to use the app.


D) Click on the "Vote Today" button.


E) Check the box next to the word "vote" for The Hope Institute!


F) A screen will pop-up asking you to confirm your vote.


G) Click Confirm and PLEASE share on your wall.



Best for both...


A) Go to


B) This link will take you directly to the application on Facebook.


C) You must "Like" Toyota to use the app.


D) Click on the "Vote Today" button.


E) Check the box next the word "vote" for The Hope Institute!


F) A screen will pop-up asking you to confirm your vote.


G) Click Confirm and PLEASE share on your wall.

How You Can Help


Are you headed to a public event this weekend? Why not take a stack of handtags with you!

Click to view/print or contact and we'll get you a supply!