Adults with autism thrive at new inclusive adult day center

When we think of autism, we tend to think of early childhood therapeutic interventions. I received a reality check when Easter Seals Southeast Wisconsin opened a new inclusive adult day center in Kenosha. The center is located inside the YMCA of Kenosha Callahan branch, and the first three participants who enrolled there have autism. Later on, more adults with autism signed up. As of June, the enrollment is a total of nine participants — six with autism. The youngest is 19, and the oldest is 60.

While Easter Seals has been facilitating day programs in the Milwaukee area for many years, we are new to the Kenosha area in terms of providing direct care. Susan Klawien coordinates our new inclusive Adult Day Center in Kenosha, and I am pleased to introduce her as a guest blogger. Susan will share her thoughts on how the program operates and the level of support necessary.

Adults with autism thrive at new inclusive adult day center
by Susan Klawien

Our Kenosha Adult Day Services program is set up in an organized fashion — from a daily schedule of activities, to the room layout. There are places for our participants to receive sensory breaks within the room. We also give our participants the opportunity to select the activities they wish to do. This promotes independence and choice.

Through our collaboration with the YMCA, we have jobs for the participants, such as folding towels and sheets, caring for the indoor plants in the fitness area, and planting seeds in the gardens. They also learn specific activities of daily living skills each day.

Being an inclusive environment at the YMCA helps our participants adapt to surroundings and changes. YMCA patrons and staff have been welcoming in their daily interactions. Children in the YMCA’s after-school, day care, and summer camp programs have been curious, but have also shown respect and understanding.

Communication is a big factor. Some of our participants understand through sign language or verbal cues, others use different methods. Board maker pictures of the daily schedule are on the wall, and we use a dry erase board to list activity options. The options are erased after completion.

Adults with autism can — and do — lead meaningful lives. Easter Seals believes that with proper supports, adults with autism can all live, learn, work and play in their communities. Families living with autism need supports after their loved ones leave the school system. Providers need to prepare for the future strengths, needs, hopes and dreams of those individuals living on the spectrum.


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  1. Debra Says:

    I would like to know what type of group homes are available…this is a “day” center. What do we do with our adult children who can’t continue to live at home with us….what facilities are best. We want to visit our son and be sure he is in a safe living environment, but can’t keep him at our home any longer.

  2. Mari Says:

    This is so very needed in our communities! Could you please start an Autism/Asperger adult/teen group in Milwaukee county at the YMCA? I know of approximately 25-30 individuals from the area that would benefit from this wonderful program. Thank you and applause for such a worthy cause.

  3. Jana Says:

    Finally some state has done what Texas needs to do, include those with Autism/Asperger Syndrome in dayhab type programs.

    Bravo for a state doing the right thing.