Neurodiverse Inclusive Activities in Chicago

Neurodiverse Inclusive Activities in Chicago

Autism Friendly Things to Do in Chicago

Chicago is a vibrant city with something for everyone with unique attractions and a diverse culture. There are many places that are working to make Chicago more accessible to autistic and neurodiverse individuals and families. There are so many things to consider when going to public places with neurodiverse individuals. If you’re planning an adventure with your neurodiverse loved ones, we’ve put together a rich list of activities you can enjoy and autism-friendly spaces in Chicago you can visit. 

Visit the Chicago Children’s Museum 

The Chicago children’s Museum is a fun-filled location for children of all age groups. The beautiful museum is committed to inclusivity, so they ensure that their environment is welcoming for children of all abilities. They host many events open to children on the autism spectrum and their sensory garden is definitely one to look out for. The sensory garden is an interactive, yet calm space designed with their neurodiverse visitors in mind. 

Explore the Wonders of the Aquatic World at the Shedd Aquarium 

The Shedd aquarium is a go-to for visitors and locals of Chicago. Upon request, the aquarium provides sensory bags with noise cancelling headphones and small tools to help with fidgeting. 

They allow autistic individuals to explore the aquarium in a more comfortable setting during their sensory-friendly hours on Thursdays by 3:30pm and the last Sunday of every month. Through their Calm Waters program, veterans and guests on the neurodiverse spectrum can explore the aquarium without the usual crowd and enjoy it with lower sensory lights. 

Embrace Drama at the Chicago Children’s Theater

Chicago Children’s Theater is a fun hub dedicated to creating unique and culture inspired productions. They are committed to inclusivity, accessibility, and diversity, and this is evident in every performance that they put together. They offer sensory-friendly performances specially tailored for individuals on the spectrum; the sound, lights, and overall volume of the production is completely modified to make the performance more accommodating. 

Go on a Cosmic Adventure at The Adler Planetarium 

You can explore the beauty of the universe and all its mysteries at The Adler Planetarium. A calm and lovely space perfect for autistic individuals with an interest in space life. The Planetarium also offers sensory-friendly showings to accommodate the unique needs of autistic individuals and their neurodiverse visitors. These sensory-sensitive showings feature some modifications from sound to lighting and how the workers attend to visitors. 

Take a Leisurely Stroll through the Lincoln Park Zoo

Lincoln Park Zoo is a regular destination for Chicago locals and visitors alike. Admission to the park zoo is free and they show their commitment to inclusivity and accessibility by offering sensory bags for special visitors. The zoo also has a quiet area where you can sit and enjoy the view of wildlife in their different habitats. Explore other modifications and adjustments they make for neurodiverse guests HERE. 

All these locations are spectrum friendly locations that you and your loved ones can enjoy. Which one of these locations will you be exploring soon? 

Classroom Sensory Supports for Neurodiverse Students

Classroom Sensory Supports for Neurodiverse Students

Having a supportive and inclusive learning environment is an integral part of educating neurodiverse individuals. It is important because it not only affects the way the children learn, but it also affects their overall wellbeing. Firstly, recognizing the need to support individuals on the spectrum by recognizing their unique sensory needs is part of the journey towards building an inclusive classroom.

Now there are many ways you can support the diverse needs of your students on the spectrum in your classroom, because every child has unique sensory needs. These sensory needs range from sound, touch, movement, and more. So, it is important to recognize and address them however you can. Let’s dive into the various ways you can support children with Autism or ADHD in your school!

Hypo vs Hyper Sensitivities

Before building sensory supports in the classroom it is important to have a clear understanding of students’ sensory profiles. It takes time and careful observation to understand the unique sensory needs of each student. 

Some students may be hyposensitive – this means they are not getting enough sensory input from their environment. Some people refer to the students as “sensory seekers”. You might notice hyposensitive students jumping, spinning, fidgeting, or eating spicy foods.

Other students may be hypersensitive. These students are getting too much sensory input from their environment and can feel overwhelmed or overstimulated easily. You may find hypersensitive students covering their ears, seeking quiet/dark areas of the classrooms, or preferring only the tastes and textures of a limited number of foods. 

Students may be hypersensitive in one area (like touch) and hyposensitive in another (like smell). That’s why building a full understanding of each child’s unique sensory profile is critical before building supports. 

Auditory Support

Many neurodiverse individuals have sound sensitivity, and this can be triggered in a classroom with lots of activities. The excessive noise can overwhelm your neurodiverse students, one way you can support them is to make provision for noise cancelling headphones, or a quiet corner where they can go to escape from the noise.

They can also perform tasks in the quiet corner when a sensory overload happens. Another way to easily support your ADHD or autistic students in the classroom is to allow access to music. Soft and gentle music or white noise provide a calming effect on some neurodiverse individuals. These simple support measures go a long way in helping them improve their auditory skills.

Movement Support

Some neurodiverse students may need to move regularly to reduce anxiety and stay calm. One thing you can do to help is to incorporate movement breaks into your daily routine. These can be stretches, yoga, low jumps, short walks around the classroom, and the like. This can help the students release pent up stress and energy.

Another thing you can consider is flexible seating arrangements, to allow them to move from one position to the other, or stand and take lessons when they want to, this helps to improve their focus.

Multisensory Teaching Techniques

Multisensory teaching techniques combine different teaching methods to carry everyone along regardless of their sensory sensitivities. You can combine hands-on activities, visual aids, and verbal instructions to enhance the entire teaching and learning experience for neurodiverse students. As a teacher, you can employ tactile learning, interactive teaching techniques, and modern technologies to engage your students with different sensory sensitivities.

Every teacher or school should support the sensory needs of students with different sensory needs as it is essential for their success in the classroom. It is also a clear indication of how much you value inclusivity and are willing to contribute to helping neurodiverse students thrive. Schools in Chicago need to embrace these supports and enhance the learning process for neurodiverse students.

At City Elementarywe support neurodiverse children and inspire them to live life to the fullest. Our passionate teachers make learning a fun activity, not a task to avoid. We have so many teaching and learning strategies in place to support the unique needs of our students. Looking for a neurodiverse school in Chicago? We might be just what you need! Contact us today for information about admissions.

ADHD and Social Skills

ADHD and Social Skills

Understanding ADHD and Social Skills 

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can lead to differences in many areas of functioning, but one area that is often ignored is how it affects social skills. Neurodiverse individuals often find social interactions challenging for a variety of reasons. Having a basic understanding of ADHD can help you learn the strategies to support the social development of your loved ones navigating life with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

Let’s explore the relationship between ADHD and social skills and how one affects the other. ADHD is a neurodiversity that involves having persistent patterns of impulsivity, hyperactivity, and inattention. These key characteristics can affect how a neurodiverse person relates with people in private and in public.  

How ADHD Impacts Social Skills

The impact of ADHD on social skills is not one directional. The core differences of ADHD influence different how people interact with others. Hyperactivity can show up as impulsive behavior, and this can affect their response in different social situations. Inattention can lead to challenges with active listening and cause them to miss some important information or important social cues. 

All these factors contribute to the differences people with ADHD experience when they form and maintain relationships. Think of it this way; neurodiverse individuals see the social world like a puzzle with different pieces that don’t fit perfectly. This is why it is essential for us as educstors and parents to address these differences and develop supports ot help individuals meet their goals. In doing all of these, we shouldn’t fail to acknowledge the strength it takes these  individuals to interact socially. 

Strategies to Support the development of Social Skills in the Neurodiverse Community

For individuals with ADHD, developing the right social skills requires some work and may take time but with the right strategies and supports in palce, we can see monumental growth. 

Structured Social Settings 

More structured settings can benefit people with ADHD because structured environments provide clear routines and guidelines. This makes it easy for neurodiverse people to navigate social interactions more focused and at ease. 

Targeted training

There are social skills curricicula tailored to people with ADHD, and this training can prove helpful. The targeted training will focus on enhancing their active listening skills, learning non-verbal cues, and managing impulsivity in social spaces. Trainings like these empower neurodiverse individuals to go through social climes with more confidence. One organization to look into is Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) – they have supports for both school-age children and adults with ADHD.

Positive Social Reinforcements

Positive social reinforcements play a role in shaping the behavior of neurodiverse individuals in social settings. When you reinforce positive behavior, it motivates them to engage in that type of behavior more often. So, once you notice positive behavior, the best thing to do is reward it, to reinforce it, this helps to boost their self-esteem and encourage them. 

Boosting Self-Awareness 

Self-awareness is an important social skill every individual should continue to grow, but it may take some time for neurodivergent individuals to develop this. One of the easiest ways to help boost self-awareness is to note the things that influence the way they feel and either avoid or reinforce it. Self-awareness involves an understanding of their strengths and challenges, and how to help them navigate them properly. 

Looking for a school that caters to the needs of neurodivergent individuals in Chicago without compromise? City Elementary is your best bet. At City Elementary we recognize that children inhabit a wide spectrum. We teach ADHD children in Chicago social and emotional skill-building together with academic subjects like reading, math, and science. Our students also enjoy constant support, attention, and regulation from expert teachers. Learn more about our admissions here. 

How to Choose a School for an Autistic Student

How to Choose a School for an Autistic Student

Autistic children have unique and special learning needs, so choosing a school is a major decision that can affect their overall development and educational journey. Autism is a diverse spectrum, meaning that every autistic child will not require the same level of support or have the same needs. When choosing a school for an autistic student, there are some important things you should consider, and in this blog, we will be diving into all of the details. Whether you’re in Chicago or anywhere else, these tips will help you make an informed decision. 

Considering the Autism Spectrum 

Autism is a developmental disorder that has different effects on individuals. To select the perfect school for your autistic child or loved one, you must consider their autistic spectrum. Some children may have sensory hyper and hypo sensitivities that involve responses to environmental stimuli like sound, physical touch, sights, smells, and even textures. Students may require more or less support around communication, social skills, and behavior. Other autistic children may have comorbid conditions like ADHD, so it’s important to recognize this spectrum diversity. 

Individual Needs 

Depending on your child’s special needs, the child may either thrive and blossom in a general education classroom among other children with little support. Other students may be able to spend part of their day in a general education classroom with extra supports throughout the day. Others may need a specialized classroom or school that can best support their needs. If your child has sensory sensitivities or ADHD, it’s necessary to find a school that takes these into consideration and addresses them fully. 

Learning Style 

Another thing you must consider is the child’s learning style. Your child may or may not benefit from a structured learning environment, so putting them in a regular classroom may impact their learning process. Other autistic children benefit from more creative and flexible approaches to learning; that’s why observing and recognizing their learning styles is crucial for selecting a school. 

To better understand your child’s learning style, you can consult with professionals who have experience working with autistic children, observe their behavior or reaction to certain stimuli, and conduct a formal assessment. This is necessary for you to know exactly where your child is on the spectrum.

By considering these key things, you can tailor your school search to ensure that it aligns with your child’s needs, strengths, and unique challenges. 

Asking the Right Questions 

Before you finally decide on a school, there are some key questions you have to ask. When you meet with educators or visit schools, here are some of the questions you should ask;

  • What strategies are in place to address and support sensory sensitivities or overload?
  • How does this school accommodate or cater to autistic students?
  • How does the school cater to students with ADHD and other comorbid conditions?
  • What is the teacher-to-student ration in the classrooms?
  • Do they offer speech and occupational therapy?
  • Do the children receive personal attention?
  • What training do staff have in supporting the needs of autistic students?

The school’s physical environment is another crucial factor to evaluate because it plays a vital role in the overall success of an autistic child. Observe the following things about the environment;

  • The size of the classroom 
  • Sensory-friendly designated areas and spaces for sensory breaks.
  • Minimal noise and ample control of noise levels. 
  • Measures put in place to ensure that the children are safe.

Once you have asked all these questions and gotten positive answers, you can make a more informed solid decision. 

At City Elementary, we recognize that children have a wide spectrum, so we teach emotional and social building along with academic subjects. Your children receive all-round care and attention to ensure they blossom completely socially, emotionally, and academically. 

Click Here to learn more about admissions and what makes us stand out!