DeKALB – Lauren Kruse wanted to make a statement when she designed her handmade Autism Awareness Month scarf: We are all equal, disability or otherwise, and every child deserves the opportunity to learn.
Kruse, a special education teacher at Camelot School of DeKalb, said she enjoys helping others and giving students with autism the chance they might not otherwise have. Her craft-making skill has given her the opportunity to spread that message – and supporters have been “scarfing” them up.
“When the scarves went on the Autism Society web page, I crashed the site because so many people wanted to buy them,” Kruse said.
She’s been so busy, in fact, she has stopped making all the other items she had been working on to devote her production strictly to the autism scarves.
The idea evolved when Niamh Dillon, the director of autism at Camelot, and Dana Wyzard, the school’s vocational coordinator, wore their scarves at a conference of The Autism Society of Illinois. The ASI asked Kruse if she could make a lot more as a fundraiser, and the campaign was launched. With each scarf purchased, a donation is made to the Autism Society of Illinois.
Kruse has the process of making scarves down to a science, cutting and sewing and ironing. But she doesn’t necessarily do all that alone.
“I have a very supportive family. We live next to our in-laws, and my mother-in-law helps with the ironing, and my husband helps on his lunch break when he comes home for lunch,” she said.
Kruse lives in Walnut, an hour away from Camelot, and when she gets home at 4:30 p.m. she starts her scarf-making. She can’t spend too many hours at it, though, because she leaves the house at 6:15 every morning to be at work by 7:30.
Kruse works with students one on one, currently a 10-year-old. But since joining Camelot in 2006, she has worked with students as old as 21. She enjoys watching the children grow and seeing them reach big milestones in their lives.
She talks about one student who was afraid to go outside but overcame his fears and now enjoys walking. She began by walking him to a fire house because the student liked fire engines.
Kruse is a native of Sycamore and a graduate of Concordia University with a bachelor’s degree in social work. Her mother was also a special ed teacher.
Camelot operates six therapeutic day schools in suburban Chicago as well as an accelerated high school program in Chicago called Excel Academy. To purchase the autism scarf, visit www.autismillinois.org/?p=4037 or www.etsy.com/shop/KruseKreations22.