Children and adolescents come from all over the greater Chicago area to benefit from the highly specialized care and treatment provided at the O-School. Most students are experiencing severe and persistent mental health challenges, together with life-disrupting symptoms related to being on the autism spectrum or other social and emotional difficulties.
The majority of O-School students have been treated extensively through special education and mental health services prior to enrolling at the O-School — achieving some, but not sufficient or sustained growth. Some have experienced an acute event that caused a significant deterioration in functioning.
O-School students on the autism spectrum have at least average IQs (with many being above-average or in the superior range) and are completely capable of verbal expression and dialogue. However, they have difficulties reading social cues, difficulties initiating and sustaining conversations and relationships, and, typically, have a limited number of highly preferred or specific areas of interest.
For many, the O-School remains the last chance to preserve life, earn a diploma and break an endless cycle of hospitalization.
Many O-School students are also emotionally vulnerable and may struggle to feel safe and comfortable within a large peer or school setting. They can also become overwhelmed by emotional experiences, making them unable to appropriately express feelings without acting them out in disruptive, dangerous, or defeating ways.
While O-School students are challenged, they display one or more areas of significant interest and strength upon which self-esteem and identity can be formed, and they also express a desire to invest in their own growth, treatment, and education.