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Center for Autism

Center for Autism

About the Center for Autism

Little Friends Center for Autism (LFCA) strives to provide a fulfilling life for those we serve through comprehensive therapy services and evidence-based treatment strategies.  We understand the range of emotions that may come with an Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis and we are here to help families along the way. Our Center is home to dedicated staff providing exceptional care and services to help foster growth and empower those we serve.  In addition to our therapeutic services, we offer a wide range of trainings available to other professional organizations.

Little Friends Center for Autism continues to be a leader in the field of autism.  As the field of autism and developmental disabilities is constantly changing, we aim to provide the most up-to-date evidence-based care and learn from the diversity of those we serve and their families.  We strive to provide not just the best services but the best services specific to your child and family.  We truly believe in a team approach and know how valuable these services are for gaining essential life skills. We look forward to working with families as they navigate life with autism, whether it is at the beginning of the journey, middle, or ongoing.

Here at LFCA, we provide an inviting environment to help build skills, increase functional communication and enhance social interactions with others.  Our clinical team is available throughout the entire process beginning with the inquiry request.  From there, our team provides ongoing support and communication to ensure collaboration of care.  

Therapies

Our center offers several therapies to best fit the needs of each individual.  These include:

Applied Behavior Analysis, ABA, is a science dedicated to the understanding and improvement of human behavior. ABA therapy is considered one of the most studied and effective treatments for individuals with autism. With early intervention, individuals learn essential communication, academic, and social skills to help them succeed in daily life.

ABA therapy utilizes behavioral principles and focuses on positive reinforcement to increase the likelihood of positive behavior change. It applies our understanding of how behavior works to real-life situations.  ABA has helped many kinds of learners gain different skills.  Our experienced staff at Little Friends Center for Autism, including our Board-Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA) and Registered Behavior Technicians (RBT), have child development backgrounds that will make a difference for those we serve.

The basic building blocks for communication and socializing are an important focus with helping individuals diagnosed with autism journey through life.  The LFCA team of speech and occupational therapists aid the diagnostic and therapy team by evaluating and addressing the specialized needs of individuals across the lifespan.

Our skilled therapists will develop a plan and goals to meet each child’s unique needs.  Our speech pathologists can add to a diagnostic evaluation by assessing various aspects of speech including receptive (comprehension), expressive (communication), and pragmatics (understanding social cues).  Using a variety of therapy materials and evidence-based approaches building language and speech through therapy targets include: Vocabulary Skills, Receptive Language & Following Directions, Expressive Language & Answering Questions, Picture Exchange Communication System-PECS

Occupational therapy enables participation and improving performance in all the things one needs and wants to do throughout the day (occupations). When it comes to the children we see at Little Friends Center for Autism, we focus occupational therapy around play to motivate and help them best learn, since play is such a big part of a child’s day.

Through play, we address cognitive skills related to problem-solving and attention, work on fine and gross motor abilities and increase social participation. A personalized plan based on the needs of the child and family is developed and implemented by our therapists. At LFCA, occupational therapists conduct evaluations through interviews, assessments, observations, and speaking with the parents and child about priority goals in order to develop a comprehensive picture. Treatment plans and goals are established to best serve the individual’s needs in a collaborative effort with the family.

As children grow, the skills required for social interaction and friendships change and become more complex.  Little Friends Center for Autism provides a variety of social skills groups focusing on matching children to peers that are similar in age and ability.  These groups are interactive focusing on building skills to help your child succeed.  We are always forming groups based on the age, needs, and availability of participants.

Little Friends Center for Autism offers an in-home toilet training program.  Families work directly alongside our expert staff in their own home using principles of behavior analysis to accomplish this skill.  Toilet training can be so frustrating for parents of a child with autism but when done in a supportive and structured way desired outcomes can be achieved, often in just a weekend! We understand the challenges of toilet training for those with special needs and have successfully helped children and young adults achieve this life-changing skill. Being toilet trained is a quality-of-life issue for all ages and is an essential step towards greater independence.

Lisa Cisek, M.Ed., Registered Behavior Therapist, has successfully toilet-trained hundreds of children from 3 years old to 20 years old using principles of behavior analysis. Over her 25 year career, Lisa has provided behavioral support teaching language and learning skills, academics, functional communication, and functional living skills working with children and supporting their parents.

For parents and professionals, understanding autism is critical.  Our instructors offer realistic, usable advice on topics ranging from autism treatments to proactive behavior management. No matter how experienced, every parent and professional can learn from our programs and connect with other caretakers. We offer on-site training as well as in-services for schools and other organizations.

Diagnostic Evaluations

Little Friends Center for Autism consults with and has relationships with local clinics and providers to help families secure autism diagnostic evaluations to guide future therapeutic decisions.  Speak with our office staff or Family Care Team for more information.

Meet the Staff

The staff at Little Friends Center for Autism is comprised of Board-Certified Behavior Analyst, Behavior Therapists, Registered Behavior Technicians, Speech Language Pathologists, Occupational Therapists, and support staff.

Jenna Ryan, BCBA

Center Clinical Director

Jenna is the Clinical Director for Little Friends Center for Autism. Jenna has been working at Little Friends for over 9 years as a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst and has worked with multiples programs throughout the agency. She has several years experience working with both children and adults with autism and other developmental disabilities.

After receiving her undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (go Badgers!), Jenna went on to pursue her master’s degree in Clinical Psychology with a specialization in Applied Behavior Analysis from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Since then, she has proudly been an employee of Little Friends and strongly believes in our mission to empower children, adults, and their families.

Lisa Cisek, M.Ed.

Senior Behavior Therapist

Lisa has been in the field of behavior analysis for 25 years and with Little Friends Center for Autism for the last 20 years. She is approved as a Level 2 Behavior Therapist through DHS and earned a certificate for coursework in Behavior Analysis.  Lisa is a gifted therapist who has great success in working with children and supporting their parents.  

Lisa provides behavioral support in teaching language and learning skills, academics , functional communication and functional living skills. She has successfully toilet trained hundreds of children from 3 years old to 20 years old using principles of behavior analysis in their homes. In addition to working in our Center for Autism, Lisa provides consultation and works collaboratively with school districts. She assists with implementation of principles of behavior analysis for students. Lisa also conducts trainings for both parents and professionals and consults to Adult Services Providers.  

Jennifer Anthony

Speech-Language Pathologist

Jennifer is a speech-language pathologist with notable experience working with children and young adults with autism and developmental disabilities. She received her masters of arts in speech-language pathology from Northern Illinois University and a bachelors of arts in speech-language pathology and French from Elmhurst College.

Jennifer especially enjoys working on social language skills, augmentative and alternative communication, and complex language tasks such as figurative language and irony. She will provide speech and language treatment sessions at the Little Friends Center for Autism in addition to speech and language evaluations and participating in the diagnostic evaluation process.

Abigail Joyce

Occupational Therapist

Abby completed her doctorate in occupational therapy at Midwestern University. Her previous relevant experiences include Lurie’s outpatient pediatric clinic, Turning Pointe Autism Foundation therapeutic day school, and completing research focusing on parental perceived differences in their childs’ play barriers. She also completed her doctoral capstone with Little Friends Spectrum Vocational Services where she educated staff about sensory processing, created sensory spaces around Spectrum, and continued leisure programming as well as adaptations for individuals we serve.

Abby understands that each child and family has unique needs. Based on a comprehensive evaluation therapeutic sessions may be centered around self-care goals as it relates to their ability to participate in everyday tasks. Additionally therapeutic focus may include, sensory processing, gross or fine motor skills, and/or underlying visual motor challenges that may be impacting their ability to be successful in meaningful tasks. Abby’s very passionate about serving children and adolescents as well as their families. Abby’s a dedicated clinician that vows to be a valuable resource for families who may need additional support.

Insurance Information

Little Friends Center for Autism accepts Blue Cross Blue Shield PPO and United Healthcare for our therapies.  Toilet training and socials skills groups are not covered by insurance.

Illinois requires commercial insurance plans to cover ABA therapy. The patient owes whatever amount the insurance company does not cover. On average, insurance covers 90-95% of the total expenses. Without that level of help, ABA may be unaffordable. While most commercial insurance plans cover ABA therapy costs, there are some self-funded insurance plans that do not. Even though insurance generally covers most of the costs, patients still owe out of pocket expenses in the form of deductibles, copays, or coinsurances.

For speech and occupational therapies, cost varies by insurance plan, number of therapy hours, and other factors.  Our office manager can help verify benefits before services begin so you and your family know what costs might be involved before therapies begin.

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