Science Leadership Academy

by Sandy Masayko

Nine Senior Engineering students from the Science Leadership Academy, a Philadelphia public magnet high school, and their teacher, John Kamal, visited Easter Seals at the end of October.  Prior to their visit the students interviewed Sandy Masayko using FaceTime to learn about projects that required engineering solutions.  Learning that the students at Easter Seals need to have toys adapted to meet their special needs, the students selected Easter Seals as a site for their engineering and design project.  After an introduction to concepts of Assistive Technology, the student engineers toured the school and observed children and teachers in action. The students have now begun their project by taking apart and repairing switch operated and adapted toys back at their lab at the Science Leadership Academy.

dsc_0247 dsc_0253 dsc_0249

Laurie McGowan, Assistive Technology Specialist, demonstrates to students how eye gaze technology works.

Project Vive

by Sandy Masayko

toygroup

Project Vive has partnered with us at Easter Seals to repair and adapt toys for children with disabilities.  Recently Mary Elizabeth McCulloch, an engineer and the founder of Project Vive, visited Easter Seals at Bucks County to see our AT Department and to get a feel for the kinds of toy adaptations we need.  She took back several large boxes filled with broken toys for her team to take apart, repair and adapt. We are very grateful for Project Vive’s assistance.  We are discussing whether Project Vive may be able to help us with adapting children’s ride-on cars to adapt mobility for children with disabilities.

To find out more about Project Vive, visit http://www.projectvive.com/

 

Young Philanthropist Group

by Tommy Berger

Easter Seals has been a rewarding part of my life for several years. I have volunteered for various clean-up days, school visits, and Walk with Me Philly events. Now I am a part of the Young Philanthropist Group.

The group was created to engage a diverse group of women and men between the ages of 21-40 committed to supporting Easter Seals programs through advocacy, philanthropy, and volunteerism. The members come from different backgrounds yet come together for the same cause. We are working to grow the Easter Seals brand by driving awareness among Gen X, Millenials, and Gen Z.

The Young Philanthropist Group is important to me because I can share my passion for Easter Seals with other individuals who care so much to spread the great work that Easter Seals has done over the many years of service.

Check out the Young Philanthropist Facebook page and see Tommy’s profile, and learn more about other members

Splashing into positive possibilities

by Kathryn Wallace

This month in Bucks County  we are unveiling our PBIS Staff Acknowledgement Board!

fish-pic-copy

One of our very own teaching assistants designed and painted the board and fins. We polled our staff a few months ago and they chose to have a board for recognition. The purpose of the board to is highlight staff anonymously for their work with the students and with each other. We are going to highlight the actions of our staff when they are following the positive behavior principles by writing their good work on a “scale.”  (Learn about PBIS here, also here, and here) Our Core Leadership Team is excited to add another exciting resource to improve our blossoming positive workplace.

 

My Crazy Fulfilling Year at Easter Seals

by Shannon Mahoney

After graduation, all Speech Language Pathologists (SLPs) must complete a Clinical Fellowship Year (CFY). The “year” is approximately nine months of working at their first job under the supervision of a licensed SLP. After this time, and with all the approved documentation, a Clinical Fellow (CF) receives a Certificate of Clinical Competence showing they are now a certified SLP; no longer in need of supervision. I recently completed my CFY at Easter Seals of SEPA. In the beginning I called my CFY a Complete Failure, but with the help of my fellow SLPs, an amazing classroom staff, and supportive supervisors, I now consider it the most Crazy Fulfilling Year of my life.

The transition from years as a student to a working adult was a jarring experience and I felt overwhelmed when I started treating students at our Early Intervention Center. There are so many people that can be involved within one single case, such as service coordinators, special instructors, speech/occupational/physical therapists, regular education teachers, parents, behavior specialists, and various support staff. As part of the team, I was initially unaware of the amount of communication and correspondence necessary to help my students succeed. I can only imagine what a parent must feel like going through the “system” as well.

As an early intervention provider, we are sometimes the first contact families have had with special education services. Being part of their satisfaction with the program and ultimately, the progress of their child’s abilities was a daunting task at first. However, with the passion of each of my coworkers and the respect and appreciation from each of my families, I slowly began to become comfortable and confident in my clinical decisions. They helped me turn what I thought of as a complete failure, into one crazy fulfilling job. Working at Easter Seals has been the proudest moment for me because every single staff in this organization has the best interest of our students as their number one priority.

Our classroom teachers are constantly working to create engaging lesson plans using their skills to adapt tasks that our children can interact with and increase the students’ academic skills. My classroom teacher fought for the rights of each of her students if she felt they needed a different education setting or more supportive services put into place. She instilled in me a sense of passion for this job and the unyielding dedication to her students that all of our staff possess. My supervisor and director provided the most hospitable working environment that showed me how important it is to welcome families and make them feel comfortable during uncertain times. The other therapists in the building taught me the essentials of being a good clinician and that learning does not end; even if we are no longer considered students ourselves.

In the end, I learned more during my first 9 months at this institution than a person could have gained from years of schooling. The knowledge that I have been imparted from by my coworkers is invaluable because every day I saw people doing what they love. Even with a rough start, I can now say that I love what I do. I believe it is because of the values instilled in each employee at Easter Seals that makes this place so special. It is my hope that our families also see the passion and devotion that I see every day when I come to work. They are the reason we are here, and their children are why we all love what we do.

Sharing Assistive Technology Ideas in Australia

by Sandy Masayko, Director of Assistive Technology at Easter Seals of SE PA

During my recent trip to Australia, I was delighted to meet with therapists who are providing Assistive Technology (AT) and Augmentative /Alternative Communication (AAC) services in Melbourne.  On September 1, Anne Williams, of the Occupational Therapy Department at Swinburne University of Technology, arranged for me to meet with occupational therapists and speech/language pathologists from ComTEC. ComTEC is a division of Yooralla, a provider of services for people with disabilities in Melbourne.  As we talked, we discovered that share many similar concerns in providing AT and AAC services and devices, including funding, planning instruction and problem solving with families and caregivers.  Anne also invited faculty members from Swinburne in the areas of Occupational Therapy, Robotics and Biomedical Engineering to learn about the work we are doing in eye gaze technology with young children.

The following day, September 2, I made a short presentation to occupational therapists at the Vic-Tas (Victoria and Tasmania) Regional Conference of Occupational Therapy in Melbourne.  The paper, focusing on factors related to use of eye gaze technology with young children, was well received.  Attendees asked many questions.  I was very interested to learn about issues being addressed by occupational therapists in Australia.  The emphasis in many presentations was on self-reflective practice, engaging consumers and promoting participation for people with disabilities.

ot-conf-w-anne-w
Pictured in the photo, Anne Williams on the left and  Sandy Masayko on the right at the Vic-Tas Regional Conference of Occupational Therapy in Melbourne.

Six Super Rules

by Michael Murphy

At Friendship Academy in Bucks County, following the rules is not as hard as you’d think. While the children all learn differently, we have really had the benefit on controlling behaviors following six simple rules. The rules are not a list of ‘Don’t’ and ‘No’, which can intimidate and often do not help students behave any better, nor are they loosely described by any means. Our six rules are very closely tied to our classroom expectations as labeled through our PBIS initiative (Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports). Our six rules are:

Hands Help

Hearts Care

Ears Listen

Feet Wait

Eyes Watch

Be a Friend

The nice thing about these rules, best utilized during times of instruction (circle, story, activity\craft instruction, etc.), is that they describe aspects of the individual child that can be controlled with self-regulation and practice. Instead of telling students what not to do, and providing examples of how they can (poorly) behave to receive some additional attention, the rules simply act as reminders of what their bodies are capable of and how they can best use their bodies to their advantage.

What has made our rules all the better is tying them, in part, to a superhero theme. Thinking of the different aspects that make superheroes special, yet still require them to work in teams to solve problems, helps to create some additional hints towards working together with our peers, finding individual strengths and using new ideas for the greater good. Many preschool and early learning programs use a similar “Be A Superfriend” strategy that helps to recognize the everyday superstars that our children can be, through simple, kind and intentional acts in daily interaction.

Recently Edwin Gonzalez, Friendship Academy’s artistic Teaching Assistant, has created an exciting set of pictures and classroom reminders that help students focus on their expectations. The pictures show diversity, from Wonder Woman’s watching eyes to The Incredible Hulk’s waiting feet to Iron Man’s mechanical caring heart. They are bright and colorful, much like the students we teach. The pictures speak to all types of children, whether they like the hero or just the picture itself. The pictures grab their attention just enough for the teacher to direct it to the lesson. The pictures are unique and even the process of putting them together drew attention from the students as they watched Edwin plan, draw, color, laminate and post. You could tell that they already felt a little super about each addition to the series.

In addition to our Superfriends, there is much to be said about the everyday unsung heroes, the Teacher’s Assistants, the Bus Aides, the therapists, nursing staff, individual support staff, those that cook, clean, file or place calls. We are all part of a team of heroes. When we focus on what we are able to control, our body and our attitude, we can think more positively about the effects our actions have on our team, and more so, how we can contribute to make a team stronger. A team is only as strong as the weakest link, and if your weakest link is the Incredible Hulk, you are in pretty good shape.