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Welcoming a Diverse Student Base

“For many, the O-School remains the last chance to preserve life, earn a diploma, and not continue an endless cycle of hospitalization.”

– Peter Myers, Psy.D., Co-Executive Director
Children and adolescents come from all over the world to benefit from the highly specialized level of 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 enrollment at the School – achieving some, but not sufficient or sustained growth. Some have experienced an acute event that caused a significant deterioration in functioning.

For those on the autism spectrum, O-School students 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.

Many O-School students are also emotionally vulnerable and may struggle to feel safe and comfortable within a larger 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.

Common Diagnoses

O-School students present complex challenges, which may include: severe anxiety such as social phobia or extended school refusal, major depression and bipolar disorder, past suicide attempts, self-injury, or instances of threatening or actually harming others, and destroying property.

Formal diagnoses include:

  • Autism Spectrum Disorders, including that which was formerly known as Asperger’s Syndrome
  • Severe Anxiety Disorders, in particular social phobia and school refusal
  • Major depression, with or without suicidal ideation or intent, with or without psychosis
  • Bipolar I and II, with or without psychosis
  • Schizoaffective disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Often included in the diagnostic profile, but typically not the primary or only presenting issues, include:

    • ADD, with or without HD
    • Attachment difficulties, RAD
    • Gender Identity Disorders
    • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
    • Mild learning difficulties
      • Student Age Range & Geographic Origins

        Students are accepted to the O-School between the ages of 5 and 21, and they come here from throughout Illinois, other states, and internationally.

        Students and their families represent the entire range of socio-economic status, and the student body is diverse and inclusive, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.

        Exclusionary Criteria

        The O-School does not meet the needs of students who:

        • Have a primary diagnosis that includes behavioral disorders, such as conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, and intermittent explosive disorder
        • Have active eating disorders
        • Require substance abuse detox or treatment