Inside the Snoezelen Room

By Tina M
June 14th

At Chileda, whether in our school or in their houses, our students can struggle processing all the sensory information around them.

Sights, smells, sounds and touch, all can become overwhelming, compelling our students to seek a place to relax and regulate. While we have designated spaces for the students to relax, we don’t have a Multi-Sensory Environment to help them regulate, at least not in the way the Snoezelen Room will.

One item on our wish list for the room is a large bubble tube, but it’s not like any other bubble tube you may have seen. From floor to ceiling, changing colors and different shapes swim through the tube, creating a calming effect that also helps with visual perception. The tube itself, begging to be touched, sends vibratory sensations through the user as they make contact with it and returning tactile stimulation.

The bubble tube is just one of the many features of the room, but it is a cornerstone of what makes the Snoezelen Room so effective.

Outside of the Snoezelen Room, the world can sometimes be chaotic, but inside of it, we can control and adjust the sensory environment for the students, providing the opportunity to relax and regulate, to help the students be their most wonderful selves. We will need your help to make this a reality for our students at Chileda.

Snoezelen at Chileda

Want to find out more about Snoezelen rooms?

Check out these links for more information.

My Chileda Story – Nick

By Tina M
May 17th

Submitted by Nick Maczek

I am a stepfather to two children on very different ends of the Autism spectrum.

My stepdaughter is still able to live at home. Her brother, on the other hand, cannot.

I was fortunate enough to have the choice to be a part of this madness. My wife, however, was forced into this. It has been harder watching what the struggles have done to her than actually dealing with the behaviors and other headaches. Mom has had to make some very difficult decisions. I have been with her through them all, but they all had to be her own decisions as a mom.

I was there when we had to first put our boy in the behavior hospital.

I was there the second and third etc. I was there when she decided to try meditation. I have been there through countless hours of therapy. I was there when we made the move to an alternative school.

Those decisions were extremely hard on mom. She, however, made it through them like a trooper.

Then came the decision to put him in residential. That was tougher than all the other decisions combined. Fortunately, at that time, he was only an hour or so from home.

While he was there, we would visit him every weekend, but our taking him out was very limited.

He got kicked out of one school while there. He got to the point that we were called several times a month that he was sent to the ER, either from aggression toward others, or self-injury.

Then came the call that my wife feared was coming, we were being told the residential facility was no longer able to keep him. We were fortunate that they kept him until another placement was found. It took over six months and over 60 rejections. Not one place in Illinois would take him.

Then a miracle happened.

We were told that a place in La Crosse, Wisconsin was interested in meeting him. Mom was both overjoyed and distraught at the same time. We were glad there was someplace out there for him, but the idea of being 4 hours away was heartbreaking. This was going to mean far less visits, and a hotel room, and a very rough ride with his sister who doesn’t like long car rides.

We took a ride up for a tour. The first thing we saw, pulling up, was a child being restrained, then we saw another inside. You may think this would be discouraging, but we were thinking just the opposite. We could see that the children were not being harmed in any way. We also instantly thought this is a good sign, they are used to dealing with kids like our son.

We were highly impressed with the tour. We decided right then to give this a chance.

Chileda student swinging with his teacher
Zack at Chileda with his teacher, Jessa

Thank God we said yes to this little place called Chileda.

In a very short time they began getting him off of some of his medications. We began taking him on overnights in hotels. We were finally getting our sweet boy back. The four hour ride became very tolerable. The quality of our visits had increased tenfold.

The smiles on his mom’s face melted my heart.

Thank you so much, Chileda, for all you do for our boy and for all the kiddos there. Thank you for giving us our Zacky back.

Learn more about Chileda and our services:

Gaining Experience in Occupational Therapy While Working at Chileda

By Tina M
May 1st

Chileda employee at the UW-La Crosse Job Fair

Congratulations to Chileda employee, McKenna Keach, on your acceptance to the Master’s of Occupational Therapy program at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

“While I was applying for graduate schools, it became clear to me there were many ways I have helped the children at Chileda grow, but even more ways in which they helped me grow as a future Occupational Therapist. Assisting students to overcome barriers in their lives, so they are able to participate in the activities they enjoy, has sparked an unwavering aspiration within me to help others in need through OT. I am very excited that I get to stay in La Crosse for graduate school, and continue to work with the awesome kiddos at Chileda who helped affirm this career path for me!” ~McKenna Keach

McKenna, all of us here at Chileda are proud of everything you have done for us and accomplished in your academic studies!

Information on the Occupational Therapy program at UWL:

Join the Chileda team

Start gaining valuable experience in your career in OT, Psychology, Behavioral Health, Special Education, Physical Therapy, Human Services, Therapeutic Recreation and more!


Craft Projects with Purpose

By Tina M
April 11th

Graphic with paint brush and scissorsBy Alicia Zielke, Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant at Mayo

Each week students at Chileda participate in various Occupational Therapy groups. From an outside lens, some of these groups may appear to be a simple arts & crafts project for children with special needs, but these activities are so much more.

Arts & crafts projects include many components that allow our students to further develop their fine motor coordination, executive functioning and social skills. Within a project children have the opportunity to practice scissor skills, lacing, drawing/writing and sequencing skills. Actions such as squeezing a glue bottle and pasting pieces together can increase hand strength while also providing sensory input. Sharing materials with others may require waiting and turn taking.

For some projects each “part” of the final product can be created by a different individual, allowing students to work together to create something great! However, if presented with a project too challenging a child may become frustrated, behaviors may occur or possibly refusal to participate. For this reason it is important to provide each child with the “just right” challenge.

Here are some tips to adapt your craft projects to help your child with special needs learn while optimizing success and fun at home.

  • Use Supplies with a Variety of Sizes
    Use crayons, markers, paint brushes etc. with a variety of sizes. For children who are still developing their grasp and hand strength, a larger utensil may be easier to use.
  • Incorporate Your Child’s Interests
    Incorporate your child’s interest, choose crafts or materials with their favorite animal, color, movie or superhero.
  • Decrease the Number of Steps
    For example, if a project requires 3 circles to be cut out, try cutting out 2 and asking your child to cut out 1.
  • Limit Wait Time
    Try to have materials and supplies available & prepared before starting a project.
  • Limit Choices
    For example, only present 2-3 options of colors or materials at a time. Being offered too many options can be overwhelming.
  • Ask Questions
    Allow your child to develop problem solving and creativity by asking questions throughout the task. For example, “do you think we will need more paint?” versus “we’re out of paint, let’s use more.”

My Chileda Story – Melissa and Jack

By Tina M
March 7th

My son Jack was at Chileda for nearly four years. He came home September 24th, 2017.

Jack gained so much during his time at Chileda and the number of excellent staff made such a difference in his life.

A week doesn’t go by where he doesn’t talk about Eric or Tim or Tyler or some other staff member that he looked up to. There were so many excellent staff that went above and beyond and realized that what they were doing was more than just a job. They were investing in someone’s life and truly making a difference. I believe Chileda’s success with special needs children is due to this fact.

Some things Jack learned were, how to cook basic food, how to stay on a schedule, how to respond in social situations and how to express his feelings. I’m amazed at how Jack will tell me how he is feeling about something and I just feel this rush of gratitude that a boy who never said how he felt has learned this important skill.

my chileda story
Melissa and Jack

What I know to be true is that Jack would not be successfully living at home without the life skills he learned during his time at Chileda.

Chileda is a very special place that treats children with disabilities in a hopeful and respectful manner. I am truly, forever grateful for all that was done for Jack while he was at Chileda.

Melissa Overbo

Autism Awareness T-Shirts for Sale

By Tina M
March 1st

Join Chileda on April 2, 2019 as we wear t-shirts to promote Autism Awareness Day and Month!

Celebrate with us by purchasing your own shirt to wear on April 2 and throughout the year!

Please submit your payment and order forms by Monday, March 11, 2019.
Click here to download the order form.
Shirts will be available for pick-up at Chileda (stay tuned for pick-up details).

Questions? Contact Tina at or 608-782-6480 ext. 352.

Taking Children with Special Needs Out to Eat

By Tina M
February 13th

Tips for eating out with children with autism and other special needs

By Terri Gowey, MS, BCBA, LBA
Chief Operating Officer at Chileda

Going out to eat at a restaurant for any family can be challenging. Having a child with Autism, ADHD, and other special needs can add extra challenges. Eating out at a restaurant requires many skills including waiting, choosing and communicating the meal choice, sitting through a meal, appropriate voice volume, and general table manners. Some children may also have sensory aversions to foods, crowded environments, and noises.

Tip 1 – Practice at Home

  • Eat together as a family during meal times.
  • Sit a few minutes before the meal to practice waiting.
  • Wait to leave the table until everyone is finished eating.
  • Use communication tools at home that will be used in the community for ordering. Helpful tools are Picture Exchange Communication Systems (PECS), iPad communication systems such as Proloquo2go or Tech Talk, Voice Output Devices, and Choice Boards.
  • Have a “restaurant night” at home and create a menu to practice ordering. Using a visual schedule that includes each step may be helpful for some children. For example: stand in line, order meal, sit down, wait for meal, eat meal, throw garbage on trays away, go to vehicle.

Tip 2 – Plan Ahead

  • Call the restaurant ahead of time for a reservation or to identify times that aren’t as busy.
  • Pick a day and time that is less busy, especially if this is your first time to the restaurant.
  • Start at a restaurant that your child will have the most success at based on their skills. Some children may do best starting at fast food restaurants because of the shorter wait times.
  • Let the manager know if you need any special accommodations (special diet, seating to avoid sensory aversions, etc.).
  • Become familiar with the restaurant (e.g. bathrooms & exits) prior to visits.

Tip 3 – Go Prepared

  • Bring items that will help decrease sensory overload and keep your child busy while waiting. Examples include sound muffling headphones, favorite toys, puzzles, iPads, etc.
  • Bring any communication tools or schedules that your child has practiced using at home.
  • Review expectations prior to going to the restaurant. Pictures of the restaurant and visuals of another child or character ordering, waiting, and eating at the restaurant can be used to create a booklet to read to your child, also called a social story. At Chileda, social stories are used to introduce changes, teach skills, and prepare for upcoming events.
  • Provide specific praise when your child is doing what is expected, for example, “You are doing a great job sitting nicely and waiting for your food.” Bring preferred items or small rewards (reinforcers) if needed.

Even with the best preparation and planning things don’t always go as expected. You may need to go take a break in a quiet environment or be prepared to leave quickly. Don’t be discouraged if things don’t go as expected. With more exposure and practice your child will gain the skills to eat out. If you are a restaurant owner, waitress, waiter, or eating out with your own family and a child yells loudly, paces the room, stands up and spins, or takes food off your plate, please be patient. This child is working on learning these skills. A smile, offering a helping hand, and just being understanding can make a world of difference for the families, caregivers and child.

This article was featured in the Winter 2019 issue of
Coulee Parenting Magazine.

chief operating officer at ChiledaTerri Gowey is a mother to three children, the Chief Operating Officer at Chileda in La Crosse, and an expert in planning ahead. She holds a Master of Science degree in psychology with an emphasis in Applied Behavior Analysis and is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) and Licensed Behavior Analyst in Wisconsin. She has over 18 years of experience working with children with cognitive challenges and extraordinary behavioral needs. (more…)

My Chileda Story – Alli

By Tina M
January 23rd

Submitted by Alli Fiedler

As a six year employee, Chileda has drastically changed my life. I wish I could say that it was all sunshine and rainbows and always noticing the residents meeting their goals. As an outsider looking in, that’s what one would expect. The reality is, you don’t always make huge strides every day. What you do is learn to embrace the smaller changes. You notice that a student used the appropriate icon that day rather than showing you a random one.

By being around the students, I have become more patient, more aware of being kind in situations where the typical reaction is to be the most unkind, and more aware of how my actions cause a ripple. I am certain that while teaching the students things like math, board games and manners, they have also been teaching me about kindness, patience, respect and perspective. Since working at Chileda, my confidence has greatly improved, I am in general more mindful and am more aware of my own mental health. This is truly a unique place. Those who are in it, can never explain. Those who are not, will never fully understand.

Marketing Strategies

By Tina M
January 9th

Thank you to the students in the Marketing 309 class at UW-La Crosse. Students assisted with developing marketing strategies for our exciting new initiative, the Chileda Development and Learning Center. Their ideas will be instrumental as we move forward with the Center in 2019!