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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How to help manage stress as a parent to a child/children with disabilities

by Shaquanah Watson

Stress management is an important skill for any parent to master but is it especially important for parents of children with disabilities. As a parent of children with developmental delays and/or a disability can come with some unique challenges. Here are some ways to begin your stress management journey that you can model for children and adults:

Positive Thinking – What you think is what you live, it all starts in the your mind: think positive thoughts even when you get negative results.

Keep realistic standards – Sometimes we can be very hard on ourselves. It is OK to ask for help from your peers. Its OK to say no. Saying no can be so hard for parents because we feel so responsible for everything; for an easier approach try “thank you, I appreciate that you thought of me, but I can’t host the PTO meeting this month.”

Take care of your physical needs – A little cardio or Yoga for 30 minutes a day is really a big help. It gives you time to wind down and relax your mind from the events of the day. I recommend you do it before you go to bed for a better sleep pattern.

Sometimes You Just Gotta Have Some Fun

by Maggie Cusak

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The winter months in a school can be long and hard. Children cannot go outside, teachers feel cooped up and administrators feel the stress of keeping everyone happy and safe during those long cold months. At the EI Center, the GROBO committee, a group of coworkers has been committed to Getting Rid of BurnOut and reminding people that work can be fun! The group has sponsored activities during the workday, and social gatherings outside of work. During the month of March, the committee sponsored a door-decorating contest for all offices and classrooms.

Staff selected a children’s book or popular author and got to work on their creations. The doors, to be judged by three impartial coworkers, were designed to not only be pretty, but also interactive and fun. The doors made familiar stories come alive with switch-activated lights, manipulative features and voice output devices. Each door incorporated children’s artwork as well as staff creativity and imagination. Each door reflected a small piece of the classroom’s spirit or office’s expertise. For example, the Occupational Therapists created a door featuring Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons that incorporated the ability for students to practice buttoning his sweater, and tying his shoes. One of the classrooms featured several textured dinosaurs from a beloved Barefoot Book called The Dinosaur Rap, as well as a voice output device that played a repeated phrase in the book.

Throughout the first week of March, students and staff have enjoyed walking around the school and operating the buttons, and moving the pieces of each door. It’ll be a test to see which door survives the longest.

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Enrichment through Storytelling

By Jennifer Eubanks

Guess who is the best storyteller in the whole wide world? That’s right you’ve guessed it! It is Patricia Fitzmeyer, aka The Story Lady! After well over 30 years of teaching in the Yaffe Center in the Starfish classroom, Pat decided to retire. However, her love for the children and teaching could not let her disconnect from Easterseals completely. So fortunately for us, she graces the classrooms weekly with her dramatic and animated storytelling ability.

She is such an incredible addition to our learning environment. The children and staff look forward to her visits. The students gain so much from Pat. She awakens their imagination and enhances their expressions. There are always lessons in each story she tells. Some days stories are filled with color, others with wild animals from the jungle! The students are transported to unfamiliar places through Pat’s vivid illustration of each story! Our lives are enriched and enhanced by her weekly presence.

Pat we just want to say THANK YOU for everything that you do and we are so appreciative of you. Love the Owls!!

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Learning to use the 3D printer

by Kristine DelMonte

Disclaimer: I am not an Assistive Technology (AT) professional, nor am I an OT or a PT.

I work in Easterseals’ Development Department, working to cultivate volunteer experiences and corporate engagement.

But when I received an email from the AT Department looking for staff members to receive training on the 3D Printers we received last fall – thanks to a generous grant from the Comcast Foundation — I signed up right away.

Last week I participated in our first of three training sessions. There were about 11 of us plus the instructor, Marcia Leinweber, the 3D printing expert from the AT Department. I am pretty sure I was the LEAST knowledgeable person there, I’d never even seen the printer at work until that day. But judging from the energy in the room it was evident that the rest of the staff knew that what they were about to learn could provide solutions to some of tricky problems they face on a daily basis.

First, Marcia provided an overview of the many ways the printer can be used, and showed how it can be used to make assistive technology – from printing tactile books for kids with vision impairment, to printing pieces to fix therapeutic equipment, to printing switches used to adapt toys. Next, we logged on to a website called “Thingiverse” to discover the designs that we will print before the next class (we have homework!).

Using the 3D Printer isn’t likely to be part of my normal work day, but I am glad to be given the chance to more fully understand how to use it – and more importantly, to understand the many ways our staff can use it to make positive differences in the lives of the kiddos we serve.

When companies like Comcast invest in organizations like Easterseals, the kids we serve benefit in a million little ways. I can’t wait to see how our staff use the 3D printer to make assistive technology – and help our kids to be 100% included and 100% empowered.

The Sea of Easterseals

by Sabrina Stafford, MT-BC

Being able to say that I know what my true calling in life is at the age of 24 is a special gift that I have been handed.

I was blessed enough to ring in my New Year’s Day next to my sister wearing bright orange jackets on the Easterseals Float in the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California. I put my arm around Sophia as we waved for three hours at strangers who smiled and waved at us, wishing us a “Happy New Year!” Although my brother, Sammy, could not attend the parade with us due to his medical needs, I knew that he was safe, healthy, and happy at home watching us on TV.

Sophia and I were nominated by our local Easterseals affiliate to represent us nationally on the float. With us were 10 other individuals who have benefited from Easterseals. Although I was only with these individuals for a few short days, I was able to make connections that I still hold with me in my heart. I think about Reagan, who advocates for herself and others with verbal apraxia using social media as her outlet. I think about Danny, who gives a voice to those with disabilities and how important it is to have “hope” in our lives. I think about Lora and her overall passion for Easterseals (and Dr. Who). And I think about Kaison, our youngest float rider, who couldn’t stop talking about how excited he was to be on the float and celebrate Easterseals with the world. I could go on about how inspiring it was to not only ride the float with these individuals but spread the word about the magic of Easterseals with thousands of people.

About a quarter of a way through the parade, I saw something beautiful: a sea of orange. That’s right, I saw a whole section of people wearing orange hats, orange shirts, and waving orange tassels in the air. These people were cheering for us and clapping their hands. Amongst the sea, were my parents who I was lucky enough to bring along with me on this adventure. Although Sophia and I were on the opposite side of the float, we frantically spun our chairs around and waved our arms high up in the air to say hi.

Besides seeing and hearing this orange sea, I could FEEL it. I have never been in an atmosphere with so much pride, love, and honor as I did during the Rose Parade. These people were excited to celebrate Easterseals and celebrate all that makes up our disability inclusive community. Easterseals is my home outside of the home my parents have created for me, my brother and my sister. Although I am employed at Easterseals as a music therapist, my role is so much more than that. Thanks to Easterseals, I am a sibling, a disability activist, a daughter, a voice for my brother and sister and most importantly, I am myself every single day and that is what my true calling in life is.