Inspiring Autism Awareness — Local organizations build life skills and career development

August 2020 View more

N2013_04_01_011VOLUNSince the 1970S, The Autism Society has designated April as National Autism Awareness Month, a perfect opportunity for groups to educate the public about autism and the issues within the autism community. Two Naperville organizations, Turning Pointe and Little Friends, are doing just that. Both are exemplary in educating and supporting the community not only during the month of April, but throughout the year.

Turning Pointe  Autism Foundation

Turning Pointe Autism Foundation in Naperville strives to build paths to a competent and meaningful future for individuals impacted by Autism. Founded in 2005 to fund programs and services for individuals and families touched by Autism, today the Foundation funds Turning Pointe CN Day School and Turning Pointe Career College.

The most recent addition, the Career College, started in 2012. “Turning Pointe Career College was created with the purpose of providing individuals with Autism and special needs, the opportunity to have an educational experience designed to enhance their independence and career related employment opportunities. Students take classes in career development, life skills, independent living, and work place readiness. Graduates of Turning Pointe Career College are guaranteed an interview with one of the Foundation’s corporate partners,” said Lauren Visher, director of development at Turning Pointe.

The current Career College corporate partners include, Walgreens, Lexus and Toyota, and Chevrolet of Naperville (Dan Wolf Automotive Group), OfficeMax, and Diverse Facility Solutions. Turning Pointe instructors work closely with the corporate partners to ensure students are prepared for success in the work place and in life.

Turning Pointe has two locations in Naperville, south on Tramore Court, and north on West Ogden. However, services are provided for families throughout the Chicago area.

Little Friends

Founded in 1965, Little Friends is a private, nonprofit organization serving children and adults with autism and other developmental disabilities. Little Friends operates 11 dynamic programs including three alternative schools, family support and consultation services, vocational training programs, community-based residential services and the Little Friends Center for Autism.

Patty Boheme is the executive vice president for Little Friends Center for Autism. Boheme has been with Little Friends for more than 30 years and works tirelessly on behalf of families and students with Austism. “Our services are very diverse. We offer one of the most comprehensive diagnostic evaluations in the country with a skilled, experienced team. What is unique about our evaluation process is that it provides an accurate diagnosis using the Gold Standard Assessments for ASD (Autism spectrum disorder). Additionally, an extensive report includes a review of the individual’s strengths, needs, and learning style which are key factors in developing a treatment plan,” said Boheme. “An early diagnosis can change a child’s future, so we evaluate children as young as 24 months.”


The evaluations include: 

  • Parent interviews
  • Psychological testing
  • Autism assessment
  • Adaptive behavior assessment
  • Speech therapy evaluation
  • Occupational therapy evaluation
  • Treatment plan for home, school, and therapy


Beyond the evaluation process, Little Friends offers a treatment program that includes individual speech and occupational therapy, applied behavior analysis, counseling and social skills groups.

“We help children say their first words, begin to make real friends and become comfortable with who they are. Our social groups are very structured to provide children and teens with the right support to learn and use social skills, such as perspective taking, conversation skills. We see such change in so many of the children in these groups,” said Boheme.

People with Autism learn differently and if they are taught appropriately, they can learn things we never thought possible.

For more information about autism programs visit: