Sensory-Friendly Easter Bunny Visits

March 3rd, 2023

Little girl smiles while hugging the Easter Bunny

Hippity-hoppity, the Easter Bunny is on its way!

Sensory-friendly Easter Bunny visits are happening at sites throughout Illinois and the St. Louis area. Individuals of all ages and abilities may schedule an appointment.

The visits will take place in a calmer, quieter environment that supports visitors’ sensory, physical and developmental needs. Autism Speaks is partnering with Cherry Hill Programs to provide these special Easter Bunny photo events.

The Bunny Cares experiences are free. Photos will be available to buy at each event.

You can see the Easter Bunny on March 26 at the following locations (in the “Reserve” section for each location, click on the “Events” button and select “Bunny Cares”):

Reservations are limited. Visit the Bunny Cares website for a complete list of sites and to reserve your spot.

Many communities are also hosting sensory-friendly egg hunts and opportunities to meet the Easter Bunny. To find these events and other family-friendly spring activities, hop on over to our Special Events page.

DSCC Teen Starts Podcast on Disability

February 6th, 2023

A close up portrait of Petra Petty smiling while sitting outdoors

Petra Petty hopes to promote greater understanding and disability representation

Petra Petty says she’s fought for greater understanding and representation of the disability community her whole life.  

The 17-year-old Kewanee high school student was born with cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. As she’s grown, she’s advocated for greater accessibility in her school district’s buildings. She also successfully pushed for a wheelchair swing at a local park playground.

She’s also passionate about other social justice issues and being an advocate for others.

Now Petra gets to share this passion and her experiences with a wider audience.

Petra recently started a podcast called “Roll With It.” The podcast focuses on living with a disability, current events, pop culture and more.

DSCC participant Petra Petty, 17, sits in her wheelchair and smiles at the camera while sitting outdoors near a pond

“I always had a desire to start one,” Petra said. “I’ve always loved talking about my opinions, and I’ve always been on social media, but I felt like I needed a longer form to share my thoughts. So, I just decided to make one. And I really love podcasts.”

Petra is a participant in the Division of Specialized Care for Children (DSCC). DSCC partners with families to help them find the right services and resources for their child’s special healthcare needs.

Petra says DSCC has helped her family with insurance coverage issues and how to navigate the healthcare system as a whole. As Petra has grown, she gets to speak with her DSCC Care Coordinator herself during regular check-ins.

“I really love talking to her and having someone to ask questions to and who I can also relate to,” Petra said of her current Care Coordinator Sarah Kelly. Sarah also has a disability and uses a wheelchair. “It helps a lot.”

Petra started the “Roll With It” podcast in September. She started with weekly episodes and took a short break during her high school exams and the holidays. She thinks of different topics to cover by drawing inspiration from current events, feedback from her social media followers and daily life experiences.

“People don’t understand disability,” she said. “I talk about the struggles and the dynamics of it. I want to show non-disabled people how it really is and not just what they think it is.”

Petra’s received great feedback so far.

“I have classmates that listen to it and teachers,” she said. “People have been supportive.”

Petra is also noticing a difference within herself since starting the podcast.

“I’ve learned how to be more open and honest and be less afraid. It’s given me a lot of confidence,” she said.

“Roll With It” is available on Spotify and Amazon Music.

Petra is excited to see where it leads. She currently plans to go to college and major in psychology and minor in political science or social justice.

Petra was also recently selected to join the Girls Committee of the Illinois Council on Women and Girls. Lt. Gov. Julianna Stratton chairs the council, which advises Gov. JB Pritzker and the General Assembly on policy issues affecting women and girls.

Participants on the council’s Girls Committee share their experiences and perspectives to help make Illinois a place where all girls can thrive.

Petra said she hopes to continue to be a force for positive change through the council.

She also encourages other teens to not let fear or doubt hold them back from trying something new and sharing their voices.

“If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out,” she said. “You never know until you try.”

You can learn more about Petra’s background and podcast in this news article from the Kewanee Star Courier.

Congratulations, Petra!