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.