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  • Writer's pictureChristine McCarty

Essential Skills

While on this journey with Addy, I’ve met some incredible people and organizations. I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Sylvia Smith, Executive Director and Becky Kaufman, Elementary Services Administrator, at Giants Steps.


Since opening in 1996, Giant Steps has been focused on providing education, therapeutic and recreational programs for elementary, junior high and high school students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) along with their families and communities. Giant Steps is designated as a therapeutic day school in the state of Illinois licensed and certified to exclusively serve students with a primary diagnosis of autism.


Their goal is to improve a child's ability to interact, communicate, and develop academic and daily living skills through a one-on-one integrated approach encompassing:

  • Training: The Autism Training Center (ATC) provides guidance and support to families touched by autism. The ATC offers consulting, training and seminars for individuals and families touched by autism, as well as schools, community organizations, early intervention centers, respite providers, police, paramedics, and emergency workers.

  • Therapy: Speech/communication therapy, occupational therapy, neurologic music therapy, social work and applied behavior analysis are available in a one-on-one approach tailored to each student’s needs. Specific physical and creative sessions include dance therapy, yoga, fitness training, social and interactive groups, piano, and music lessons.

  • Recreation: Our Rec Center provides after school activities that complement our education curriculum, including a computer lab, sensory and motor rooms, and dance and yoga areas, art and express yourself centers, as well as fitness facilities.

  • Life Skills: The adult day program offers opportunities for adults with autism to participate in a work environment and to develop necessary job skills to foster greater independence.

What intrigued me the most was the list of essential skills they structure each students’ program around. This to me is a game changer and will be part of my survival kit launching soon.


Essential Skills

  • Possesses and utilizes an identified reliable, spontaneous communication method

  • Demonstrates self-management of behavior

  • Safely participates in groups of 5+ individuals

  • Completes personal care routines independently (e.g., clean hands/ face, brushes teeth, hair combed/brushed, etc.)

  • Follows spoken and visual direction

  • Respects and maintains appropriate boundaries of self and others (physical and otherwise)

  • Follows directions from multiple people

  • Manages bodily functions independently (e.g., toileting, wiping nose, covering cough, etc.)

  • Demonstrates choice-making

  • Waits appropriately for 10 minutes

  • Possesses and utilizes skills/strategies to manage emotions and/or sensory needs

  • Demonstrates problem solving

After meeting these two great women to learn more about their program and vision, I was in awe. I was amazed by their commitment, knowledge and understanding of our community and what they have done to help so many families! From us at Raising Addy, thank you!


Much love,

Raising Addy

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