Reflecting on 2019: A Very Dynamic Year for AT@Easterseals SEPA!

by Sandy Masayko

Some highlights of 2019 from the AT Department at Easterseals SEPA–

HONORS

Director of AT, Joy McGowan, was recognized as a Healthcare Hero by Main Line Today in May. Joy, who has worked at Easterseals for more than 30 years, has helped hundreds of people attain communication skills and devices through her work evaluating, consulting, mentoring and guiding clients, families and therapists.

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The AT Team gathered with Joy to celebrate her recognition as a Healthcare Hero.

SHARING KNOWLEDGE

The AT Team presented papers and posters about 3D printing for AT and eye gaze technology for young children at these conferences:

  • Assistive Technology Industry Association, Orlando, FL, January 2019
  • Pennsylvania Department of Education, Hershey, PA, March, 2019
  • American Occupational Therapy Association, New Orleans, LA, April 2019
  • Association of the Advancement of Assistive Technology in Europe, Bologna, Italy, August 2019
  • AT Makers’ Fair, Monroeville, PA, September, 2019
  • American Academy of Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine, Anaheim, CA, September, 2019

By sharing our knowledge we have been able to guide people in the USA and other countries in construction and implementation of AT to meet a wide range of needs, and we have gained information to help us with our clients.

AACPDM poster w AT Team

This poster traveled to Anaheim for the American Academy of Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine conference.

COLLABORATION

Working with volunteers from Comcast and Thomas Jefferson University, the AT Department and volunteers fabricated over 50 adapted toys for children at our schools.

The School District of Philadelphia’s Science Leadership Academy students have continued to work with us to fabricate toys and devices for our students.

Thank you to our supporters at Comcast, Thomas Jefferson and SLA!

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Comcast Cares Day participants adapted many toys for our students at Easterseals.

Comcast + Easterseals Partnership Celebrate Comcast Cares Day

This Easterseals student received a custom-fitted seat for a kiddie car adapted by Jefferson University students, Comcast employees & Easterseals staff.

GRANTS

Building on our success with 3D printing of Assistive Technology, we have received a new grant from Comcast to fund implementation of Virtual Reality for educational purposes in our schools. Come back for more information about this in 2020.

NEW TEAM MEMBER

The AT Team welcomed Laura Slotkoff, M.S., OTR/L, as an Assistive Technology Specialist in September. Laura joined the AT Team after working for two years in OT at Easterseals. She brings knowledge of new technologies and commitment to expanding opportunities for participation for our students and clients.

The AT Team wishes a happy 2020 to our supporters and friends!

I feel the love

by Jeanine Johnson

Very often I talk about the exemplary work Easterseals teachers, teacher’s assistants and therapists perform on a daily basis. The way they care and connect with each and every student is truly something special. The children and their families are supported by Easterseals on so many levels that go beyond the academic. You know I could go on and on about the importance of what we do and how we serve our families, but today I want to talk about how we support each other!

Earlier this year I was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer. It was one of those calls you never want to receive. I quietly underwent the slew of testing that needed to be done before the surgery was finalized. I didn’t tell anyone what was going on at the time because I wasn’t ready for questions. I was very fortunate because I feel I had best case scenario, caught it early, minor surgery, radiation and medication. Ultimately I knew I’d be fine, but it was still a lot to process. I decided to take some time off after the procedure just to get my head and emotions together. No one was aware of what transpired until after I went out on leave.

Well the outpouring of support I received from my co-workers was overwhelming. The cards were beautiful but the sentiments were something special. There were personal notes from the teaching staff, transportation staff, nursing staff, therapy staff and corporate staff. The cards and poster boards were decorated by the students. The personal notes (and there were many) that each person wrote brought joy to me. Sometime you don’t realize how much we get used to each other’s routines, likes and dislikes. I received a package in the mail that contained boxes of tea bags and three fresh lemons. It is known that I have to have my hot cup of tea with lemon every morning. This made me laugh and my heart light. The box also contained a gift for both my dog and my cats. A Grub Hub gift card was sent to me. It was another thoughtful gesture. What a novel idea and one I plan to duplicate! That’s a great gift for someone who’s recovering.

When I returned to work there was such a warm welcoming from everyone. People were checking in with me periodically to see how I was making out with the radiation treatments. After I completed my 4+ weeks of radiation, I got to ring the bell. I came into work the next morning to an announcement written on the bulletin board congratulating me for finishing my cancer treatments. I felt very cared for and loved. So when I sing the praises of the people I work with, it’s because they are inherently good people, with great hearts. I’m sure that’s what drove them to work in this industry where their love and talent could have the most impact.

 

Easterseals’ Family And Family Feud!

by Jennifer Eubanks

Easterseals has been an integral part of my life as I have been an educator here for the past 13 years. I receive such joy, feelings of accomplishment and pride when I see my students’ progress year after year. I was thrilled when earlier this year an opportunity presented itself to contribute to the organization on a larger level. My brother-in-law, Kevin Eubanks, was picked to appear on Celebrity Family Feud. He was debating what charity to choose to represent and wanted it to have a local tie. Well, needless to say, I wholeheartedly suggested Easterseals as the perfect charity to choose! Much to my delight, he was onboard with that choice.

It was wonderful to be able to get the Easterseals name out in the public in front of a large viewing audience. The trip was wonderful and the game show was a blast. It was Team Kevin Eubanks vs. Team Ryan Lochte.   While I cannot tell you the outcome, you can watch and see for yourselves. The episode is scheduled to air on September 22, 2019 on ABC from 8:00 pm – 9:00pm EDT.

A note of thanks!

by Danielle Franchini-Muir

Danielle is not only our Director of Behavioral Support Services, but she is also a Friendship Academy parent. As her son began kindergarten this morning, she wrote this lovely note to the staff at the Friendship Academy and the entire Montgomery County Division.

Hi Montco Staff!
I wanted to send a note of thanks on this special day. My son Joey has been attending Friendship Academy at Easterseals Montgomery County for two wonderful years and had his last day just a couple weeks ago. He gets very nervous with new people, places, and things, but school soon became his favorite place to be! Not only were his teachers phenomenal, but all the staff there including other education staff, child care staff, therapists, and even Mr. Steve (on all our late days!) all also made him feel as special and loved as he is to me. There is no better feeling as a parent. He was so sad to leave and even shed a few tears leaving the parking lot on his final day.
As sad as it was/is for both of us, I knew putting him on the bus this morning for Kindergarten he was READY! He was nervous, but smiling.  And I know he has the skills to really make it in Kindergarten thanks to all of YOU 🙂
Hope this note and pictures brighten your day! Just know all your hard work really does pay off – you all make differences in the lives of kids and parents every day.


Danielle

100 Years, a reflection with a former client

by Liz Graham

It’s 2019 and Easterseals is celebrating 100 years of service and advocacy for people living with disabilities!

It is an incredible milestone and I have been lucky to learn more about our history and meet some of our supporters and clients over the past few months. Through this celebration I have had the pleasure of getting to know Susan K., an Easterseals Legacy Society Member and former client who received Physical Therapy services in the 1960’s. In speaking with Susan to learn about her life and her experiences it struck me how far we have come as a society and, yet, how far we still have to go. This is why the next 100 years of Easterseals are so important.

Susan was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy early in life. Her physical challenges have never defined her; fortunately, with the advocacy of loved ones early in life she never believed she couldn’t achieve whatever she set her mind to. In Susan’s words:

“My story as an “Easterseals child” began sixty some years ago in, what was then, the small, sleepy – some might say idyllic – town of Doylestown, Pennsylvania, where I was born and raised.

Doylestown, in the 1950’s and 60’s, was a town small enough that most families knew each other somehow or other…from school, church, civic activities or shopping at the A&P grocery store in the middle of town. I attended the public “borough schools” from kindergarten through graduation from high school. However, there was a time that my going to public school was in doubt. There were a few who felt a physically handicapped child should not be integrated in school with other more “normal” children. But, thanks to the perseverance of my parents and a few enlightened individuals, it was felt there was no reason I could not be mainstreamed into the school system. And, only minor physical accommodations were ever made. Accommodations that would be almost laughable today, they were so simple. My first four years of school were spent in a very old, gothic structure with four floors and restrooms in the basement. As an example, in first and second grades, when we had one of our numerous fire drills, a male teacher, on his way down the stairs from the upper floors to the outside, would sweep me up in his arms and carry me down the long outside flight of stairs to the playground where everyone gathered. However, on a daily basis, I navigated all those steps totally on my own.

Friendships made, early on, were friendships that live on even today. I was different but accepted. Sure, occasionally different is picked on, picked last; but because I met my school mates at a time when children have few preconceived notions, for the most part, I had a fairly normal school experience. I’ve always felt my public-school experience, and the general acceptance I always felt – from classmates to teachers – is what helped to form my feelings of self-worth.

Of course, during those early growing up years, I was a regular client of Easterseals “treatment centers”. I had physical therapy, fortunately not needing occupational or speech therapies. Occasionally, at the treatment center, I would meet with the great Dr. Burton Chance, an early pioneer in the field of treating handicapped children. My years of physical therapy, years of wearing leg braces, were free, courtesy of the “Easterseal Society”. Generous donations then, as now, really do change the course of life for Easterseals children whose families might not, otherwise, be able to afford the cost.

After high school graduation, I went on to college. Then, two months after college graduation, I began my first full time job that would end up being a 36-year career in state government. Seven years ago, I retired from that career.”

Since 1960 the world has evolved and great strides have been made to provide individuals with disabilities greater equality and access, particularly in our schools. Easterseals was at the forefront of advocacy to pass the American Disabilities Act and has always sought to provide innovative services to help people with disabilities find greater independence. Today, there would be no doubt that Susan would attend public school with her peers. Today, Easterseals breaks down barriers to inclusion and stereotypes before they are ever built; our Friendship Academy preschool program integrates children with and without disabilities to learn and grow together. This innovative approach to preschool began in 2006 and, locally, has had significant impact for participants.

But we are far from done.

When I asked Susan if she has seen a significant difference in society’s perception of individuals with disabilities she responded,

The treatment of those who are “different” – physically, mentally, racially, ethnically, gender based, etc. – hasn’t really changed all that much. There have always been – are now – some who are compassionate and enlightened. People who don’t flinch at having normal interaction with those who are perceived as being different. Who help others when they see a need.

But, we also live in a world where threats of all kinds could be just around the corner. A world where many seem to be looking out just for themselves. To them, dealing with someone who is slower, or in need of assistance, is an inconvenience they’d rather avoid on their way to protecting themselves. I’ve often wondered how people like that would handle themselves, or a loved one, becoming suddenly disabled. Would they be angry when they see a handicapped parking space being taken by someone who, literally, sprints from car to building? Would they expect assistance as their “right”?

I’ve been one of the lucky Easterseals children in that my disability, for most of my life, did not hamper or define what I wanted to do. Much of the credit goes to family, friends and teachers I had at each step along the way. But, of course, had it not been for Easterseals and the services they provide, the story might have been totally different.”

It is critical that Easterseals continue to advocate, continue to innovate, and continue to ensure that individuals like Susan have the resources and services they need to live, learn, work and play in their communities. Join Easterseals for our next 100 years where, together, we will work to build a future where everyone is 100% included and 100% empowered.

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Newspaper clipping of Susan as a child.

Introducing our Volunteer Handy Man, Lew Oser

By Loretta Meola, Teaching Assistant in Bucks Division

Lew Oser has been volunteering his time and talent with Easterseals and has become part of the family. In the past, he has shared his creative woodworking skills by making several props for our carnivals. He has made two construction paper holders, and a tray holder for the Dolphin room. This year, Lew repaired the “practice” stairs in the school gym. He donates his “spare” time to complete these projects and provides all of the materials needed. Lew loves our Easterseals children! And we love Lew!

 

The Importance of Social Excursions

by Jeanine Johnson

I have had an opportunity to get to know the Owls’ classroom pretty well over the last year. I recently had the pleasure of accompanying the classroom on a trip to the Flower Show held at the Convention Center in Center City Philadelphia. I won’t lie, I wasn’t sure how the children were going to fare. It can be an overwhelming experience. Would they be bored? Would the crowds be too much? Would they get any enjoyment from it? I am happy to report that my worries were unfounded.

The children were in awe. I chaperoned my friend Naji. He “oohed” and “aahed” from the moment we stepped into the ballrooms. I was able to experience firsthand all the benefits the outings bring. It gave the children a chance to put into practice, in a crowded social setting, their listening ears, walking feet, being patient and waiting their turn. We got to practice identifying colors, objects and counting. Learning disguised as fun, how delightfully sneaky!!

The wonderful thing about spending time with the children is being able to see their progression. I have seen so much growth in all of these students both socially and academically. Hearing a child who wouldn’t speak in the past find their voice is astonishing. Watching a student sit through an activity, who in the past was restless, is satisfying.   Seeing the pride in their face when they complete a task correctly is gratifying. Seeing the friendships and bonds they have developed with one another is heartwarming. I have an ever growing respect for the teachers, teacher’s assistants, one-on-ones and therapists who work with the students on a daily basis. Their dedication, hard work and love for these children really does yield miraculous results. They see the potential and nurture it!

I revel in being able to be a small part of the children’s learning and growing experiences.

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