Autism Awareness Month

This month, which is National Autism Awareness Month, Easter Seals Central Illinois will be hosting autism awareness trainings and workshops to help educate the community and spread awareness.

Within the last few years Easter Seals Central Illinois has focused on using April as a month to provide opportunities to families, professionals, and the community to learn more about autism.

Education is especially important for families that may have recently had a child diagnosed with autism. 

“The diagnosis can be a very emotional experience for family members,” Jamie Hollis, Director of Autism Services for Easter Seals Central Illinois, said. “Part of what can help manage that emotion and stress is educating themselves about what the diagnosis means, what options are available in the community, and what support systems are out there.”

On April 12th Hollis will be hosting an Autism 101 presentation in the Peoria Easter Seals Center. Another Autism 101 presentation will be held at the Bloomington Easter Seals Center on April 17th. 

The introductory class helps teach what a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder really means, and goes over the diagnostic criteria in laymen’s terms. 

“They’re going to learn about how to look at certain behaviors and understand how they are a symptom or presentation of autism spectrum disorder,” Hollis said.

Those in attendance will also learn about what types of interventions are available, so that they can begin planning what will work best for their child. 

“We know the nature of the diagnosis looks very different from one child to another,” Hollis said. “We have a motto, if you’ve met one child with autism, you’ve met one child with autism. Autism can look very different from one child to the next, and treatment isn’t a one size fits all.”

The presentation is open to more than just families of children with autism. In past years, professionals, such as case workers and counselors, also attend to increase their skills and knowledge of autism.

On April 22nd in Peoria and April 23rd in Bloomington, presentations will be held discussing the P.L.A.Y Project. The P.L.A.Y Project is designed for children ages 18 months to 8 years, and is meant to improve their reciprocal communication and social behaviors. 

“P.L.A.Y. takes a different route to addressing children with autism,” Hollis said. “They take the perspective of be where the child is. If the child is on the floor playing with trains, then you should be on the floor playing with trains, trying to guide them into more socially appropriate play patterns.”

On April 24th in Peoria and April 29th in Bloomington a presentation entitled “Changing Challenging Behaviors” will be presented.

The presentation will help teach what certain behaviors actually mean, and how you can change the environment to help change the behavior to something more appropriate. 

“We know that traditional parenting strategies don’t always work with children with autism,” Hollis said. “This class teaches why those strategies don’t always work, and gives you ideas and advice on how you can do things differently in order to get the results you want.”

On April 28th in Peoria a presentation on the fundamentals of Discrete Trial Training will be held. The presentation will go over the teaching strategy of Discrete Trial Training, why it is so effective, and what sort of programs can be taught using it. 

Each program requires those who would like to attend to register beforehand. Registration can be done through Easter Seals Central Illinois website at or by calling 309-686-1177. There is a cost of $10 per registration for the events above. 

More specific information on the events, as well as the services Easter Seals Central Illinois provides, can be found at their website