Monthly Archives: May 2014

Meet JJ

by Melanie O’Brien

Kids being kids. Sometimes it’s not always so simple. So helping children find their voices, the ability to play and engaging with with their friends and families is what we work for. Together, with families, we find ways to help the children we serve to shine. There are so many amazing children that reward us with their smiles and charm every day. JJ is is one of those stars! We are so pleased to have JJ as an Honorary Ambassador for Walk With Me this year.

Meet JJ…


When asked to describe JJ, his mom summed it up by saying that he’s a rock star. This very social five-year-old has PVL, cerebral palsy and vision impairment. JJ has tremendous inner strength and we have to believe so much of it comes from his parents, big sister, twin brother and huge extended family. When he was ready for center-based services, he also became part of the Easter Seals family. Since he began at Easter Seals, JJ has come out of his shell even more, his motivation is increased, his words have increased and he is holding his head up better. In addition to his increased words, he will soon be using an eye gazing device to really help him find his voice. When he’s not amazing his teachers, he’s quite happy rough housing with his brother, playing catch, looking at Elmo books, strumming a guitar or even better, enjoying a bowl of ice cream. JJ certainly knows how to enjoy the finer things in life and we can’t wait to see what he does next!


Puppet Show Social Skills

by Laura Corbett

One of the biggest challenges we face in Early Intervention is teaching our children social skills. Many of our children struggle with taking turns, sharing, using nice words, and simply engaging in simple back and forth conversation. The National Association for the Education of Young Children published an article in “Beyond the Journal” in November 2006 titled “You Got it! Teaching Social and Emotional Skills.” The article was written by Lisa Fox and Rochelle Harper Lentini (read it here) and it discussed the importance of teaching social and emotional skills and ways to go about doing so. Fox and Harper (2006) suggest that teaching social skills involves three stages of learning: introducing a new skill (show-and-tell), building fluency (practice makes perfect), and skill maintenance and generalization (you got it!).

Our philosophy here at Easter Seals is first establishing positive relationships in which we foster a safe and happy environment to prevent challenging behaviors. Easter Seals Early Intervention Center in Philadelphia recognized a need to get creative with the way we teach social skills and the way we “show-and-tell” new skills. Simply telling a child to “be kind to your friends” means nothing to them unless we show them what “being kind” looks like. Many of our kids need to be highly motivated to stay on task and maintain attention to grasp new concepts. Together staff brainstormed and we came up with the idea to put on a puppet show to help teach kindness: helping your friends and teachers, and sharing. Staff members jumped at the opportunity to volunteer to be a character in our show. One of the strategies that Fox and Harper (2006) list in the article talked about modeling with puppets, so we knew we had chosen a winning strategy!

We chose the story “The Little Red Hen (makes a pizza)” by Philomen Sturges and adapted it slightly to make it more relevant for our children. Similar to the original Little Red Hen Story, the farm animals refuse to help the Little Red Hen as she makes her pizza, but as the story continues, the pig, the duck, the dog, and the cat realize in the end the importance of helping a friend and sharing.

We invited the families to attend and all together shared our own pizza party after the puppet show performance. Back in the classrooms, the teachers continue to use puppets and repeat the same lesson they learned in the story of “The Little Red Hen (makes a pizza)” in order to build fluency and generalization.

The clip you can watch below is a snapshot of our puppet show where in the end together the animals washed the dishes. We are ecstatic with that way the children responded to the puppet show and we plan on doing it again in the Fall!

Big thank you to the staff that helped put it all together J (Eddy, Maureen, Rufus, Nancy, Hayley, Kelly, Grace)

Laura Corbett has been working with Easter Seals as a Special Education teacher since January 2013. She works in the Philadelphia division both in the classroom, the community, and as a Supervisor. She received her Bachelors in Early Childhood and Special Education from the University of Delaware and is a few classes away from her Masters of Education from Arcadia University. She has been working in Early Childhood/Special Education since June 2009. Some of her previous work experience includes teaching young children of abuse and neglect (often with developmental delays) along with their parents in Southwest Philadelphia and an inner city writing program for kids from 5-18 years of age in South Philadelphia. She is very passionate about behavior management/social skills, the use of a therapy dog with kids with special needs, and really enjoys working with the families and establishing strong & support relationships. Laura loves her dog, going for a run, and enjoying the beach with her family and friends in the summer at the Jersey Shore.

Meet Paige

by Melanie O’Brien

There are so many amazing children we have the opportunity to serve! And when the kids are amazing, you can bet their families are too! Walk With Me is a great opportunity to meet some amazing children and their families and we are so thrilled Paige is one our honorary ambassadors this year.

Meet Paige….

Paige is one of the most fashionable five-year-olds you will ever meet! Her stylist (mom) keeps her looking good…but Paige always brings the most important accessory that truly brings the look together…her smile! Paige’s smile and sparkling eyes make every look amazing. Paige has cerebral palsy, seizure disorder, chronic lung disease and global developmental delays, which have resulted in countless surgeries and hospitalizations, but she is rarely without that smile. When it came time for her to attend school, her parents chose Easter Seals. They loved the staff and are now truly enjoying the new building, Paige loves going down the long bright hallway and looking through the windows. With the help of teachers and therapists, she has become more attentive and has increased her communication skills, perfect for a little girl who just loves to be around people! When you meet her, you will find it impossible not to fall in love with her. Her love of life, which includes theater, music, reading and even skating touches everyone around her!


Finally it’s SPRING TIME!!!

by Megan Guthrie

We have fully embraced the idea of spring and all that it encompasses in the Bear Cubs classroom. With our Occupational therapist we made a Paper Mache bird house out of a milk jug in the morning class and took our experimentation outside for the afternoon group. As we always say here at the Early Intervention Center, it is more about the process, not the product and being very flexible. As we weremaking our bird house outside we quickly realized that we forgot our Paper Mache materials. To improvise we used grass, sticks, flowers, nuts, and dirt (things that we thought birds would like on their house). The afternoon kids loved collecting the items for the bird house and we made it a more of a nature centered lesson opening the conversation up to talk about what we saw on the ground and what we thought birds eat.

In keeping with the spring tradition of gardening, we have planted carrots and flowers. Each child decorated their pot with stickers, and of course Thomas the Train made it on to most of the pots. Weplaced them next to the window to get the most amount of sunlight and have loved watching them grow and being a part of the process by watering them every day. We have been reading the book, Planting a Rainbow, which talks about planting and growing various flowers. This project really helped our children to better understand what it means to plant.

Painting Bird House Making bird house Painting Bird House 2

Meet Jack

by Melanie O’Brien

One of the reasons Walk With Me is such an amazing event is because it allows us to shine a spotlight on all the accomplishments of some of the children we serve. By shining a spotlight on these amazing children, we also in turn highlight all of the hard work and dedication of that child’s family, teachers, therapists and all of the other staff that work hard to maximize that child’s independence.

One of those amazing children is Jack! We are so proud of his accomplishments and we can’t wait to see him shine at the Walk!

Meet Jack…

Jack loves to laugh and the sound of his giggle is so sweet that it seems to touch your heart! He is a happy five-year-old who happens to have cortical visual impairment and cerebral palsy. Thanks to mom’s instinct, Jack was diagnosed early and began receiving services when he was four-months-old. When he started center-based services, his family chose Easter Seals, because they felt hopeful here. Since Jack has been attending Easter Seals, he started standing, taking steps in a gate trainer, drinking out of a cup and much more. When he isn’t busy impressing the staff at Easter Seals, you may likely find him listening to music! His dad is a musician who sings to him all the time. He also has a thing for Taylor Swift. Jack also has a sweet tooth and will take every opportunity to indulge it. He also loves to cuddle, especially with his grandma who he spends a lot of time with. When you think about it, it’s easy to see why Jack is such a happy little boy!


Activities to help facilitate your child’s social skills:

By Elizabeth Haftl, M.S. CF-SLP and Ryanne Giordano, M.A. CF-SLP

There are 2 parts to social skills:

Interpersonal skills: are the ability to perform competently in social situations which is important for peer acceptance and social adjustment.

Learning related skills: are the ability to self-regulate and act competently in social classroom tasks and learning situations.

In general, children’s interpersonal skills have been linked to social outcomes whereas learning-related skills have predicted academic success.

Social Skills Developed from 0-12 months:

  • Differentiates between tones of voice (angry, friendly)
  • Smiles back at caregiver
  • Follows caregiver’s gaze and demonstrates joint attention skills
  • Participates in vocal turn-taking with caregiver
  • Vocalizes and gestures to get attention and request
  • Plays simple interactive games such as peek-a-boo

By 12-18 months child should:

  • Requests and gains attention by pointing and vocalizing
  • Says “bye” and other ritualized words
  • Protests by shaking head, saying “no”
  • Aware of social value of speech
  • Demonstrates sympathy, empathy, and sharing nonverbally

18-24 months:

  • Uses single words to express intention
  • Uses single and paired words to command, indicate possession, expresses problems, and gains attention
  • Participates in verbal turn-taking with limited number of turns
  • Demonstrates simple topic control
  • Interrupts at syntactic junctures or in response to prosodic cues

2-3 years:

  • Engages in short dialogues
  • Verbally introduces and changes topic
  • Expresses emotion
  • Begins to provide descriptive details to enhance listener understanding
  • Clarifies and asks for clarification
  • Uses some politeness terms or markers
  • Begins to demonstrate some adaptation of speech to different listeners

3-4 years:

  •  Initiates play with other children regularly and participates in make-believe play
  • Participates in simple board games (share and take turns) with minimal adult interaction needed
  • Understands that others can want different things
  • Engages in longer dialogues and terminates conversation
  • Anticipates next turn at talking
  • Uses fillers—such as yeah and okay—to acknowledge a partner’s message
  • Begins code-switching and uses simpler language when talking to very young children
  • Makes conversational repairs when not understood and corrects others

4-5 years:

  • Adjusts the complexity of their communication style depending on the age of their conversational peers
  • Understands and uses humor with their peers
  • Enters a conversation, takes 2 turns on the same topic, changes the topic, and leaves the conversation.
  • Answers questions in school
  • Develops basic understanding of Theory of Mind
  • Shifts topics rapidly

When reading a story choose a book that includes repetitive lines to have your child say

Provide the child if they are nonverbal with a means to say the repeated line at the appropriate time in the story line (Big Mack, using their device, etc.)

 Examples of books with repetitive lines:
  • Pete the Cat books by Eric/Dean Litwin
  • Brown bear brown bear what do you see by eric carle
  • Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Suess
  • The little caterpillar by eric Carle
  • The Little Old Lady who swallowed a trout by Terri Strout
  • Chicka Chika Boom Boom by Bill Marin Jr.
  • The Little Old Lady who wasn’t afraid of anything by Linda Williams

Choose songs that include repetitive lines to have your child say:

¨  Examples of songs with repetitive lines:

  • Old McDonald
  • Five Little monkeys
  • Itsy bitsy spider
  • Twinkle Twinkle little Star
  • Fire truck song
  • Happy and you know it
  • Wheels on the bus

Board games are great for facilitating social skills:

¨  Variety of social skills can be addressed during these games depending on where the child is developmentally.

  • Sharing
  • Requesting a desired item from an adult and/or peer.
  • Waiting your turn
  • Requesting for a turn
  • Learning to wait for a turn

¨  Board games are also a great way to help expand your child’s language (i.e.: requesting for a specific color game piece) and work on different concepts (i.e.: colors and shapes).

  • Some examples of great board games to play:
  • Cranium Cariboo
  • Pop-up Pirate
  • Candy Land
  • Don’t wake Daddy
  • Hi-ho cheerio
  • Connect 4

Playing with a ball is great for working on….

  • Requesting for turn with the ball.
  • Sharing
  • Grabbing the attention of the intended listener
  • Verbs
  • Child learns to wait for turn

Increasing social skills on the playground…

  • Asking friends to go on tire swing together
  • Asking for turns on bike/cars
  • Touching a picture to request turns on swing, etc. for nonverbal communicators.
  • Play group games:
  • Hide and seek
  • Tag
  •  Jump rope

Elizabeth Haftl has been a speech therapist for 1 year, working in a variety of pediatric settings in Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania during her graduate school practicums and as a clinical fellow. She graduated from Towson University in Maryland in May of 2013. She has been with Easter Seals in the Delaware County Division working with children in the Reverse Mainstream, Autistic Support, Multiple Disabilities, and Developmental Delay classrooms. Her favorite aspect of her current job is the ability to create positive changes in the lives of the children she is working with.  Beth loves to kick box and enjoys going to amusement parks.


Meet Reggie

by Melanie O’Brien

Walk With Me is our biggest event, yet our Honorary Ambassadors and their families, and everyone who comes out to support them, make it the most personal. Walk With Me is an amazing day at the Philadelphia Zoo that has impact that lasts all year long.

One of our ambassadors this year is Reggie. He is a shining example of how when you combine the expertise and passion and Easter Seals staff and an amazing family, a child can really shine!

Meet Reggie….

Reggie has a laugh so great that just hearing it will make you smile. And lucky for us, this sweet five-year-old loves to laugh! So much so, that he will actually put your hands in his favorite tickle spots. Reggie has autism, which can make communication a challenge, but when it comes to what he wants, he knows how to make it happen. Reggie has been attending Easter Seals autistic support class since he was three. Since then he has become much more social, learned to dress himself and has gone from the boy who avoided touching things to just plain unstoppable! When he isn’t wowing teachers and therapists at Easter Seals with his progress and ever-happy personality you can find him doing some of his favorite things. He loves visiting as many parks with his mom as possible and taking a spin on his awesome big wheel with his dad. Reggie loves to be outside! But when he is home, there is nothing better than pizza and singing and dancing along with Mickey!


Reggie in his classroom


OT Awareness

by Anna Lassman

April was OT awareness month, and as usual our Occupational Therapy department in the Philadelphia division likes to not only promote the profession, but share some practical knowledge with staff. This year we decided to piggy back on our Early Intervention (EI) Center staff celebration with an activity for staff that earned them a chance to win one of 2 gift baskets.

One of the important foundational skills for hand function is tactile perception. Stereognosis is a unique skill of tactile perception. It is the ability to identify objects through touch. When a person handles a material, he or she sends touch signals to the brain, and the brain identifies the object. It is important for overall hand function and developing grasp patterns, as well as dexterity and ability to use materials. A person would explore the shape with their palm and fingers, and then use their memory of what things feel like. For example rough/smooth/ sharp or rounded edges, depth, weight, etc. In other words, what are the properties we may be looking for as we explore objects without hearing or vision assist?

In our game, staff were shown a card with 6 different 2D shapes, and asked to put their hand into a large box and match 1 object hidden in there. On an interesting side note, a number of staff was very hesitant to put their hand into a box when they couldn’t see what was in there, needing assurances that we were not trying to trick them.

This is a skill we use so often and are unaware of how many systems we are using to be successful. When I am driving and trying to find my chap stick in my purse compartment where I have other lipsticks as well as other wayward items, I think about this. Touching a counter top with crumbs or sticky substances, finding your keys in your pocket, anything that is identified without the benefit of other senses (hearing, vision) are examples of how we use this skill in our everyday life.

Anna Lassman has been an OT for 35 years, working in a variety of pediatric settings in New York, California and, for the past 18 years, in Pennsylvania. She has been with Easter Seals in the Philadelphia Division as the OT department head for 7 years. She has special interests working with infants and young children with feeding difficulties as well as working with children with neurological impairment. Her favorite aspect of her current job is the ability to mentor new practicing OT’s as they begin their career in the field. Anna loves the ocean and misses easy beach access, but loves the Philadelphia area.