First published: Winter 2014
In 1950s Illinois, and worldwide, children with autism were invariably thought by professionals – and their families – to be unable to live productive lives. This lack of understanding often led to them being consigned to institutions for life, where there were few opportunities for personal development or expression, creative or otherwise. A group of parents in Palatine, just north of Chicago, wanted more for their children, so they founded the Little City Foundation. Opening in 1959 with three buildings and 16 residents, today it continues to aim to provide autistic children “with the best options and opportunities to live safely, work productively, explore creatively and learn continuously throughout their lifetime[s]”. At the time, such thinking was truly progressive.
Bellwood, Wayne Mazurak, 2008, marker on paper, 11 x 17 in., 28 x 43.2 cm
Now, over 60 years later, Little City is still providing innovative programmes on its 56-acre grounds in Palatine (and offices in Chicago), with 450 staff supporting over 350 people who have intellectual and developmental disabilities. Little City caters to different levels of need, offering residential and day care, home-based support and a fostering and adoption program. Many Little City attendees take part in activities at the Palatine campus or at community-based group homes, where education, training, skills and encouragement help enable them to live full and actualised lives.
This is an article extract; read the full article in Raw Vision #84