School for students with autism opening in Lombard
A school dedicated to serving children with autism and related disorders is moving to an office park in Lombard next month after operating in Burr Ridge for five years.
Executive Director and co-founder Deanna Tyrpak said Soaring Eagle Academy's new location at 800 Parkview Blvd. has been designed to "truly meet the individual needs of our students" by creating "schools within a school."
Students of similar ages will be grouped in one of four pods -- primary, intermediate, junior high and high school -- where they can access their classrooms, speech therapists, occupational therapists, counselors and other support team members without interrupting students in the other pods, Tyrpak said.
The building, scheduled to open Jan. 5, also will include common areas that all students will use, including exercise rooms, art and music rooms, a tech center and a lunchroom/auditorium. Some walls are covered in soothing colors, while many others are painted a simple gray.
"For our kids, lots of stimulation and lots of color and busyness is not supportive," Tyrpak said. "We (the staff) want to be the 'woo,' not the building."
While the size of the school is expanding to only 25,000 square feet from about 21,000, its design will give the school a chance to serve up to 70 students, about 15 more than it serves now, Tyrpak said. While it's not a huge increase, Tyrpak said the founders never wanted the school to "grow too large and compromise the mission and the vision in any way."
There are many other therapeutic day schools in Illinois, but Tyrpak said Soaring Eagle Academy is the only one that integrates a developmental language model and the DIR approach, which examines a child's development, individual differences in the way they process sensory information and relationships they have with peers and adults.
Often, Tyrpak said, the students are seen as having many negative behaviors, including aggression. But instead of "extinguishing" those behaviors, the staff examines the reasons the students behave that way. They then work to provide support and teach the students coping strategies for calming and regulating their bodies and making sense of their world.
"We believe that when kids are calm and regulated, and engaged with communication partners, and emotionally invested in their learning, that amazing development can occur," Tyrpak said.
Nearly 50 public school districts refer students to Soaring Eagle due to their complex needs. Families can elect to send their children to the school, too, but enrollment is primarily driven by the public school referrals, Tyrpak said.
It was difficult to find a building that fit the school's needs, including ample parking, green area for the students to play outside and a supportive community, Tyrpak said. The Lombard building was the solution to all those issues, while also being "very centrally located" to placing districts and staff members' homes.
"The school was a dream to the three founders and this is just very exciting, to finally find our new home," Tyrpak said.