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updated: 7/26/2011 3:10 PM

Disabled people learn life skills through Aurora agency

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  • Clients of the Association for Individual Development learn job skills in sheltered workshop environments.

    Clients of the Association for Individual Development learn job skills in sheltered workshop environments.
    Courtesy of the Association for Individual Develop

  • People with physical disabilities can find therapy through the Association for Individual Development, based in Aurora.

    People with physical disabilities can find therapy through the Association for Individual Development, based in Aurora.
    Courtesy of the Association for Individual Develop


On any given day, a person with a developmental disability may be learning job skills or working in a sheltered environment.

Someone overcoming addiction may be supported through counseling.

Someone with physical or developmental disabilities may be strengthening their body in warm-water therapy.

It may be happening throughout the Western suburbs. And it's all under the programs and services offered by the Association for Individual Development.

The organization, celebrating it's 50th anniversary this year, began as a school program for disabled students who weren't taught in traditional classrooms at the time. Over five decades, the Aurora-based agency has grown to offer an array of services for both children and adults, all aimed at enhancing the individual's skills and their opportunities for independence.

AID relies heavily on fundraising and donations to serve its 5,400 clients. Today and Friday, July 28 and 29, supporters and bargain hunters can shop the AID garage sale featuring donated items at the Keeler Center and Pool in Aurora.

Today, AID's marketing and communications specialist, Michael Rosenfeld, tells us more about the agency's mission.

Q. What is your organization's mission?

A. The mission of AID is to empower individuals with disabilities, mental illness and special needs to achieve independence and community inclusion.

Q. How do you work toward accomplishing that goal?

A. All clients have access to vital, life-enriching services through early intervention; developmental therapy; respite care; permanent, affordable housing; developmental and vocational training; job placement and on-the-job coaching services; crisis intervention; victims services; mental health treatment; behavioral intervention; community education and advocacy.

Serving more than 5,400 clients in 20 programs operating in 45 communities, AID is a leading provider of services that address the unique needs of individuals throughout every stage of their lives. A person-centered approach, coupled with innovative practices, ensures the highest level of accomplishment.

Q. Who do you serve?

A. AID provides services for individuals with developmental, physical and/or mental disabilities, mental illness, those who have suffered a trauma or those who are at-risk. AID provides these services throughout the Fox Valley community, including DuPage, Kane, Kendall, suburban Cook and Will counties.

Q. When and why did the organization start? How has it grown?

A. AID started in 1961 in Aurora as a school for children with disabilities. At the time, people with disabilities weren't allowed in public schools. The organization originated with eight children and one teacher.

Today, AID serves 5,400 individuals in 20 programs operating in 45 communities throughout the Fox Valley. AID grew greatly under the vision and direction of Dewey Thompson, who was executive director from 1966 to 1998.

Q. What kind of successes have you had?

A. AID has helped many adults with disabilities, mental illness, and/or special needs develop job skills, find work in the community and go on to live independently with little to no assistance.

Q. What challenges does AID currently face?

A. Budget cuts are a constant challenge. AID also operates two sheltered workshops where adults with disabilities do subcontract manufacturing services to develop job skills and earn a paycheck. The amount of subcontract work has decreased during the recession; many companies AID worked with in the past have closed or sent their manufacturing work overseas. This leaves less work for individuals in the workshops.

As of July 30, 2010, there were 1,455 children and adults with disabilities in Kane County and adjacent communities on a waiting list to receive services. These individuals need support, and budget restraints don't allow for them to receive services.

Q. What would surprise most people if they spent a week with the organization?

A. I think people would be surprised most about how much the clients at AID love to work and the passion they have for finding work in the community. The clients are always positive and are overjoyed when they are given the opportunity to work. I feel many of them would be successful at holding down a job in the community, and I hope they get their opportunity to prove themselves soon.

I also would like for the community to know that programs and organizations such as AID are much cheaper and more cost-effective than what happens when these services are taken away. If individuals with disabilities weren't able to receive services from AID, many would end up in jail, nursing homes, emergency rooms or institutions, all of which would be more expensive to the state and the tax payers than programs and services offered by AID, which help individuals develop independent living skills and help them integrate into the community.

Q. How can readers get involved?

A. AID has several fundraising events throughout the year, including our annual benefit auction Oct. 14; telethon in February or March, 2012; and a summer motorcycle run. To stay up-to-date with upcoming events, visit

Individuals can also donate online at

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