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Ann Haskins Center at Marklund Day School

Marklund recently expanded its Day School with a $4 million state-of-the-art building and program that focuses specifically on children on the autism spectrum.

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Thanks in large part to a $3.5 million donation bestowed on Marklund by the Ann Haskins Foundation, the school is now able to expand its Life Skills program which provides specialized education and training to students ages three to 21 who have been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. The new 12,000-square-foot two-story building is situated adjacent to the current school building and feature six classrooms, therapy rooms, a multi-purpose room, offices,  and observation areas and is named the Ann Haskins Center.

“Thanks to the generosity and foresight of a St. Charles woman whose own daughter had special needs, we were able to design and build a state-of-the-art facility from the ground up with the needs of children with autism in mind," said Gilbert Fonger, president and CEO of MarklundThe height of every window, curvature of the walls and placement of benches in the hallways have been determined with the assistance of an autism consultant, he added.

The Foundation and its trust, which were established in 1986 for Ann Haskins by her mother Mary to commemorate Ann’s life and support other young people with disabilities “by providing the highest quality special education for children in DuPage and Kane counties,” also granted a similar amount to Wheaton College. The College, according to the Ann Haskins Foundation, will use the donation to create a special education program to give college students pursuing a degree in education the opportunity to receive training in special education methods. According to Fonger, Marklund and Wheaton College have formed a partnership through the Foundation to share information and give college students the opportunity to observe and obtain clinical training on how to teach children with special needs.

The Marklund Day School was established in 1979 to serve children like those cared for at Marklund—medically fragile children with multi-needs including serious developmental and physical impairments, and who, because of their profound disabilities, cannot have their educational needs met at public schools.

The School’s Life Skills program began in 2010 as an extension of the Day School to serve those children specifically on the autism spectrum. Space constraints in the Marklund Philip Center for Children, located at 164 S. Prairie Ave., in Bloomingdale, which houses the school, has limited the number of students able to be served. With the expansion, the school should be able to increase its enrollment by an additional 35 students and 25 new staff members.

Marklund Day School administration is so pleased to be able to serve more students who need a specialized program. Marklund currently partners with 23 public school districts to give them a place to send those students whose needs cannot be met at their own school. Students may need to be transported to the Marklund Day School for any of a variety of reasons ranging from space or financial limitations to inability to manage the severity of the student’s disabilities. Special education directors at Marklund's partner districts are looking forward to the expansion and being able to observe best-practice techniques in the hope that they may be able to duplicate teaching methods back at their own campuses. "It is always our goal to eventually be able to transition the students back into their home districts,” stated Fonger.

The observation windows allow district administrators and teachers, student teachers and parents, the chance to observe activities in the classrooms without being intrusive in the class and being noticed by the students.