Category: News


By Tina M
November 12th

Sibshops are presented by The Chileda Development and Learning Center in partnership with the Down Syndome Association of Wisconsin

What is a Sibshop?
A Sibshop is an opportunity for brothers and sisters (ages 7-12) of kids with special needs to come together and receive support from each other. Through activities, games and discussion, the youth receive support from their peers who may be experiencing similar feelings of having a sibling with special needs.

The Sibshop model uses many off beat games and activities interspersed with discussion and informational activities to provide siblings with information, support and a whole lot of fun!

*The Sibshop model takes a wellness approach. Although Sibshops may be therapeutic for some children, Sibshops are not considered therapy and should not replace any family or individual therapy already in place.

How are Sibshops run?
Sibshops are led by Chileda employees who are trained Sibshop facilitators. Volunteers assist with activities and provide a 1:2 adult to participant ratio. As often as possible, volunteers who have siblings with special needs are recruited to provide insight on what it is like to grow up with a sibling with special needs.

Upcoming Sibshops
December 14, 2019
January 25, 2020
March 7, 2020
April 18, 2020
May 30, 2020

Sibshops are held on Saturdays from 9:00 am to Noon at the Chileda Development and Learning Center (3716 Mormon Coulee Road, La Crosse)..
A fee of $10 covers the cost of a snack and materials for the event.

For registration information, please contact Karrie Zielke, MVR, MBA, The Director of Chileda Development and Learning Center. or 608.782.6408 ext. 368

Jenna pictured at Chileda

“As a kid, it was hard to explain to friends what it was like to have a sister with autism and how that would affect us when they would come over to play. Most kids my age didn’t quite understand what it was like. So for my brother and I, going to Sibshops were a great way to talk to other kids that could relate to us and that had stories of their own to share.”
-Jenna Cavey, Behavior Specialist & Sibshop Facilitator

Making a Difference: Drew and Donna Sullivan

By Tina M
October 29th

Submitted by Maria Dresen, Noelle Hausen and Kristin Hartung (students in the “Digital Content Writing, Management, and Experience Design” Spring 2019 class at UW-La Crosse)

Donor Spotlight: Drew and Donna Sullivan have been long-time supporters of Chileda. We are so grateful for their kindness and benevolence. They have made a significant impact to helping fulfill our mission of improving the quality of life for youth with cognitive challenges and extraordinary behavioral needs. Thank you, Drew and Donna! We are humbled by your generosity.

“Chileda is responsible for the difference.”

That’s what Drew and Donna Sullivan would say if you asked them about the impact Chileda has on their lives. Their story shows the importance of Chileda’s mission and community support.

Drew and Donna were introduced to Chileda when their grandson, Keegan, could no longer live at home with his family in Texas. Keegan was diagnosed with severe Autism Spectrum Disorder at a young age and became so violent toward his siblings, his parents could no longer care for him. This led to a desperate search for a facility that could help Keegan. To their delight, Donna and Drew stumbled upon the solution in their own backyard; Chileda became Keegan’s new home. 

The progress Keegan experienced at Chileda was one of the couple’s main motivations for donating.

For a period of time, Keegan was a resident at Chileda who needed constant care. Because of our services, he was able to move from a residential student to our day services program. In addition, he can now better control his emotions, use more words, follow clear instructions, and express if he is upset or needs anything. Without Chileda, Keegan would have been put on the waiting list in his home state, or placed in a psychiatric institute. Now, he has transitioned to an adult group home that his family is comfortable with where he can grow old. 

To support their grandson, Drew and Donna donated to Chileda in various ways. They gave a monetary donation directed toward a break room for staff members, a safe space where they can set aside the stress of their positions. This has a positive impact on the students as well, as the space allows the staff to be better equipped to provide the students with the highest quality care. Drew is highly involved within Chileda by serving on the Board of Directors. Donna and her certified pet therapy dog have provided pet therapy for both Chileda residents and staff. Donna and Drew continue to devote their time, effort and money to our organization because they have witnessed how much our services can improve a family’s quality of life.

Our devoted team carries out our mission to teach students the valuable skills needed to become active in the community and improve a child’s quality of life.

Drew and Donna confirmed the devotion of our team explaining that, “their mission to take care of children…they live it, they breathe it, they wear it.”

Our mission is not solely an assortment of written words, but rather is lived out every day by all team members.

In order for our organization to continue serving our students, we are in need of community support. Through previous donations, we built two additional accessible playground structures to address students’ varied needs. Having a variety of playground structures helps students make more progress physically, academically and emotionally. The equipment provides access for those with limited mobility, including wheelchairs, and promotes group play.

Currently, we are raising funds for a Snoezelen Room for our students, a multi-sensory environment that will allow them to regulate their sensory input. If you are interested in supporting our work, please check out our donation page at

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.

Want to find out more about Snoezelen rooms?

Check out these links for more information.

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.

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!

AmazonSmile – 10 times the support

By Tina M
October 31st

AmazonSmile has donated over $100 million to charities thanks to customers shopping at

To celebrate, AmazonSmile is donating 5% (ten times the usual amount) to Chileda when you shop at through this Friday, November 2.

Why Work at Chileda?

By Tina M
October 17th

Submitted by Toby Wendtland, Recruiter

Wait, what is Chileda?  We polled 100 people who had never heard of Chileda and the most popular answer was:  A Mexican Restaurant!  Well, that’s not quite right.  Chileda was founded in 1973 with the idea that every child can reach their full potential regardless of cognitive or behavioral challenges.  As the first significant papers were being published on autism, Chileda was already helping families find unique and tailored approaches to each individual child they served.  45 years later, we continue to innovate at our integrated school and residential campus located in La Crosse, Wisconsin.  So why work at Chileda?

Set aside the awesome benefits we have, forget about the generous insurance package, the 401(k) match, profit sharing and amazing paid time off, and focus on the opportunity in front of you:  We want you to help us change lives. As you get to know our students, there will be no quitting on them.  What if I told you there was a job out there with great pay, great benefits, even better opportunities for advancement, and a job you’ll love 95% of the time? Doesn’t that sound tempting, even sound like a career opportunity? Nothing prepares you for Chileda, except Chileda.  There are opportunities for rock stars to shine, to go on tour, and even go platinum.  We love to train staff; we’re producing rock stars every day.  Join us and we’ll show you why job satisfaction makes all the difference.

All Abilities Trane Park Project

By Tina M
October 10th

Submitted by Derek Cortez, CEO of Chileda
This speech was given on 10/4/18 in support of the All Abilities Trane Park

Fellow parents and grandparents,
Have you ever reflected on the many choices you have for your children and grandchildren to experience community? Have you ever reflected on the many choices you have for your children and grandchildren in regards to team sports and other physical opportunities? Probably not. Why would you, when this is most likely an unnecessary exercise for your family? For most of us in this room we have the luxury of choosing amongst many choices of places to go and activities to engage in with our kids and grandkids.

But suppose you had no choice or very few choices. Suppose the physical and cognitive challenges of your child or grandchild seriously limited the places they could go…places where most other children could go, but yours could not. How would you feel then as a parent or grandparent?

Fellow parents and grandparents,
The world of limited choices is the world the children of Chileda live in. My name is Derek Cortez and I am the CEO of Chileda. Chileda is an organization whose mission is to improve the quality of life for children/adolescents with severe autism and other cognitive challenges. We have been a part of this community for 45 years. Our residential and day school program serves on average 60-70 children and employs more than 200 people. Our families come mostly from Wisconsin and Minnesota, but do come from as far away places as Alaska.

One of the questions we often hear from our parents when they visit their children is where can they take their child in the community where they can be safe, welcomed, and have fun? It isn’t easy to find such a place, because few places exist that can accommodate our children.

The Trane Park is one such place that will provide an option for our families. In a world with limited choices, the Trane Park provides them with a place where a kid can be a kid, regardless of physical and cognitive challenges.

Tonight I am here to represent those families who could not be here to speak on behalf of their child. I am here to speak on the behalf of the invisible, those who too often spend much of their lives behind closed doors so you seldom see them.

Fellow parents and grandparents, I would ask you to support this noble cause of the Trane Project.
The Trane Project will demonstrate yet again that we are a city that shows we don’t aim to meet only the needs of the many, but also the needs of the few; and not only those with the loudest voices, but also those without a voice…the needs of the invisible. Thank you for consideration of our request to support this park.

And the Winner is…

By Tina M
September 20th

We asked, you voted! Here’s the winning student drawing that will be featured on our next employee t-shirt! Thank you to everyone who voted.

Facebook Birthday Fundraiser

By Tina M
August 29th


Happy Birthday and Thank You to Scott Mell!  Scott raised over $2,000 for Chileda through his Facebook birthday fundraiser. We are celebrating this incredible donation and feeling very fortunate he chose Chileda as his birthday gift. Thank you to all the amazing people who donated to support our mission of “improving the quality of life for youth with cognitive challenges and extraordinary behavioral needs.”

Scott is also our very first fan to raise funds for us via Facebook. This is an exciting new venture for Chileda. Donating to our cause on Facebook is simple and convenient. Please help us spread the word and be sure to like us at