It’s Lacrosse Season at The Trellis School

Something wonderful is happening at The Trellis School. Adaptive Physical Education Teacher, Ian Mitchell has created a 6 week long lacrosse program for the children at Trellis.

On Saturday mornings, Mitchell and a group of volunteers work together to orchestrate a fun lacrosse session for some of the students from Trellis. Mitchell himself has worked at Trellis for almost 3 years. On top of his position of Adaptive Physical Education Teacher, he is also the Program Manager for the Therapeutic Integration Program at the Sparks location. The volunteers for the lacrosse program consist of other Trellis employees, Mitchell’s son, and a few of his son’s lacrosse teammates. Although this first session, which concludes on June 3rd, is only open to Trellis School students and related services clients, Mitchell hopes to open future programs to more families.
A typical session consists of modified games that help the children reinforce the skills that are already taught. “The best way to describe our sessions is ‘Organized Chaos!’” commented Mitchell. “Our sessions are very fast-paced, and we change things quickly so [the kids] don’t lose interest.” The activities start as soon as the kids enter the gym at Trellis. Immediately, Mitchell and the volunteers direct the kids to start an activity as a warm-up. This activity is usually a previously learned skill that they perform on their own. Next, Mitchell reviews what they did in past sessions, and the children practice these skills through various fun games. After the review, Mitchell guides the kids through new skills, which are first demonstrated to them by the instructors. When the demonstration is over, the children try these new skills with a little help from Mitchell and the other volunteers. The session comes to a close with a fun group game that gets everyone involved.
The equipment used for the program is modified to fit the children of Trellis. Instead of the usual lacrosse ball and stick, Mitchell’s group uses a soft ball and small lacrosse stick. The smaller stick is easier for the kids to use, and the soft ball alleviates fear of injury. Because of the soft ball and gentle nature of the activities, the children do not wear helmets or other equipment.
Mitchell says he was inspired by his love of lacrosse to create this program. He said he felt a desire to share his passion for this sport with the kids that he teaches. Physical activity for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder is particularly important because problems such as obesity and inactivity occur at higher rates in those with ASD. On top of the physical health benefits that come with exercise for children with ASD, research has also shown that physical activity has led to behavioral improvements. In their article “Promoting Physical Activity for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Barriers, Benefits, and Strategies for Success,” Menear and Neumeier say, “Further research with exercise interventions supports the claim that exercise decreases disruptive behaviors in the short term for children with ASD.” Caitlin Sprouse, Occupational Therapist and Director of Related Services for Trellis Services commented, “Movement input from participating in sports gives great sensory input to all kids who love to move! Practicing lacrosse skills gives kids the opportunity to work on lots of motor planning as well.”
For Mitchell, however, the best part of the program is “seeing the kids smile!” As for future plans, Mitchell hopes to see his program grow and to see more kids involved. He also would like to eventually do other programs with other sports as well, particularly soccer. Ian Mitchell is always looking for qualified volunteers to help with this program. Those interested can contact Ian Mitchell at

A New Perspective

Reyes Vera joined Trellis earlier this Winter as the Education Director of the Trellis School. We recently sat down to ask him three questions to get to know him a little better. Read his bio on our Leadership Page and read below for the answers to our questions.

Q. What attracted you to Trellis?

Trellis has always been known for having high quality educational and clinical programs. As a BCBA and special educator, being part of a school that utilizes the principles of ABA and Verbal Behavior was very appealing to me. I am very excited to be a member of the Trellis team.

Q. What’s your vision for your role as Education Director?

Trellis is a well-established program. I want to contribute to the program to build on what is already in place. I see myself promoting professional growth within Trellis and providing families support to further the generalization of skills from school to home and community.

Q. What are 5 things you want parents to know about Trellis?

  1. The students are always engaged! The Trellis team is amazing at creating instructional opportunities throughout the school day.
  2. The Trellis team sets high realistic expectations for their students.
  3.  The Trellis team is passionate about their work with the students.
  4.  The Trellis team is dedicated to professional growth. We have multiple staff enrolling in programs to gain their BCBA certification.
  5.  The instructors, teachers, related services, administration, and families all work together to achieve a common goal…student success!

Tips for Making Homework Easier

The school year is now in full swing. The once-new backpacks may already be showing signs of distress from their daily haul …and perhaps your kids are too. Homework is a task that few (if any!) kids enjoy, and children with autism can especially have trouble with such assignments. Some children, for example, can appear to understand what they’re doing while in the classroom but might not grasp what’s expected from home assignments. And many students on the spectrum don’t ask their teachers for help. Fortunately there are several strategies to help your child stay focused.

Regular communication with teachers is important when it comes to homework: it helps clarify the level and amount the child can handle. Keep in touch so teachers can create individually appropriate assignments.  Also, make sure you know which assignments are due when and that your child is turning in their completed assignments.  Children with autism may have difficulty organizing and tracking homework assignments and due dates.

If homework always occurs at the same time and becomes routine, your child will eventually accept it. Initially it may be hard to hold the line, but persistence pays off. This works for almost all chores children prefer to avoid, from taking baths to brushing teeth.  You may also want to use a visual schedule and even a timer so that your child knows what to expect when.

Set a tone that homework time is important and a priority. Give your child an important place to sit, and ask siblings to stay quiet or have them work on their homework too! Ask how it’s going, and be sure to offer praise to help build your child’s confidence. Show that you care and want them to be successful.

Be firm but encouraging, being careful not to nag too much. This can be difficult when you’re frustrated so be conscious of your tone. Set solid standards for what the homework routine looks like, but be encouraging and motivating. Remind your child that you are proud of their efforts and that they are learning. Consider giving a reward for good effort (or even just sitting and attending initially) even if not everything is correct. As improvement is made over time, you can shift rewards to more academic goals. Rewards don’t have to be candy or toys, just ask the child what they might like to do with you once homework is done—it’s an opportunity for positive quality time you can both enjoy.  If your child has difficulty waiting until the end of homework to receive the reward, give them tokens (stickers, stars, etc.) throughout the homework routine, and when they reach a certain number of tokens, give them the reward.

Giving choices has been proven to increase motivation. You want homework time to become routine, but you can still offer choices such as where to sit, what writing materials to use, which task to start with and definitely the type of reward given for successful completion. Empower them by offering at least three options; they’ll like the (limited) control!

Your child’s homework does not have to be perfect.  Maybe they misspelled a word.  Will the teacher be able to figure it out? Then let it slide.  Perhaps their handwriting is a little sloppy.  If it’s still legible, don’t spend a lot of time making them re-write something they already did.  The less you correct your child (and make them re-do their work), the less frustrating homework will be for both of you! Try to praise twice as much as you critique!

Seeing a full worksheet of 30+ math problems can be overwhelming for any child! Try covering the bottom of the page with a blank sheet of paper and working on one row at a time.  You can even switch to other assignments between rows if necessary. Ask your child to help you come up with a pattern (e.g., 5 math problems, 2 spelling words, 5 math problems, 2 spelling words, etc.).  If there’s a longer assignment due at the end of the week, work on a little bit each day to make it less overwhelming.

This post was written by Kelly Namanja, MA, BCBA,  Autism Spectrum Therapies’ (AST) Clinical Director for Chicagoland. AST and Trellis are part of the Learn It Family of Companies.