Category Archives: child stories

Lifetime Imprints

by Jeanine Johnson

The other day I was sitting and reflecting fondly on the last year. I made a lot of meaningful connections with the children here at Easterseals. As I have spoken of before, I was both sad to see some leave, but excited for the growth and progress that enabled them to move forward, on to the next adventure in their lives. I was comforted in the thought that maybe, just maybe, I’d be able to hold on to some of these connections, at least a little longer. I’m sitting here smiling because I have. Don’t know how long it will last, but I am holding on to and enjoying every opportunity that presents itself.

In August I attended a 5th Birthday party for Maximo. He’s a former student who left Easterseals early because his family relocated. During his time here he managed to capture everyone’s heart. We were all disappointed that our time with him was cut short. I was overjoyed that I was invited to share in his birthday celebration. It was nice being able to see him and, to once again, experience that magical smile. His mother sends me pictures periodically, which always brightens my day immensely.

In December I met up with one of my favorite graduates, Mung. My daughter, Autumn, and I treated Mung and his mother to lunch in Center City, Philadelphia. We had an opportunity to catch up on all that has been going on with him and his transitioning to a new school. He has always been somewhat of a character having “beyond his years” humor and sarcasm. I was delighted to see that hadn’t changed.

What’s been very evident to me is how much that Easterseals has meant to these families. I am so glad that their faith in entrusting us with the care of their children was well placed. The impact our programs have for these children will remain with them for years to come. The impact the children have had on me will last my lifetime.

Screen Shot 2018-04-24 at 4.49.02 PM

lunch with Mung

Screen Shot 2018-04-24 at 4.49.30 PM

Maximo’s birthday

Music and Memories

by Sabrina Stafford

When I received the news that I would be interning at Easterseals back in December of 2015, I was ecstatic. Being the oldest sibling of two children with special needs, I am used to most special education programs being familiar with my family; but this was different. Easterseals had been a part of not only my brother and sister’s lives but also mine. I attended the Sibshop program that was available in the evenings to siblings of children who attended Easterseals. This program was very important to me as a little girl (and I’m not just saying that because they had free pizza).

Sibshop taught me that although being a sibling is difficult, it is also incredibly rewarding. My siblings are a blessing. Without them, I wouldn’t have been able to easily learn values such as patience, empathy and hope. When I walked into the doors of the Delaware County Division of Easterseals after accepting the position as the Music Therapist, I felt like I was walking into Easterseals as a little girl back in the early 2000’s.

My brother, Sammy, graduated from Easterseals in 2000. He is currently 22 years old and a graduate from Elwyn’s Davidson School. Sammy once was a student in the APS classroom. Sammy received in-home services such as physical, occupational, and speech therapy. In fact, Ms. Paula, Sammy’s previous PT still works at Easterseals today. What a surprise it was for me to recognize a familiar face on my first week as an intern! Sammy is healthy and strong and enjoys his days socializing at home with family and his nurses.

My sister, Sophia, graduated from Easterseals in 2006. She is now 17 years old and attends a life-skills class at Penncrest High School. Sophia was one of the first children to attend the Friendship academy at the Delaware County Division. Sophia continues to enjoy school, especially socializing with peers her age. She attends all of her high school dances and is also a member of her student council and honors society. Sophia also works at The Media Library as part of her life-skills curriculum.

I am a proud sibling of both Sammy and Sophia. Of course my special family has come with challenges, but those challenges are heavily outweighed by the benefits. Easterseals has been a small-knit community for me and my family, and continues to be a supportive environment for me as a newly professional Music Therapist.

Although Sammy and Sophia have both graduated from Easterseals, they bring the spirit and warmth of the Easterseals community with them. They will continue to hold Easterseals in their hearts, just as I continue to do every day. It has been such a rewarding experience for me working at Easterseals; I feel like I was born to have this job. I am so very thankful for the life experiences that prepared me for my endeavors at Easterseals. Because of this, I wake up every day with a smile knowing that without my siblings, and without Easterseals, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.

Looking forward to Walk With Me

by Eva Delmonte

Eva is 12-years-old and was a volunteer at last year’s Walk. Recently, she came in to volunteer on her day off from school to help get ready for this year’s event. While she was here, she had the opportunity to meet Mung, one of the Honorary Ambassadors. She also took a little time to write some of her memories from last year.

I absolutely enjoyed the Easter Seals event. It was very fun to be at the zoo. They even provided water, other refreshments and hotdogs! The best thing was walking around the zoo and seeing the animals, especially the giraffes! After the event I got to explore even more because you get all all day pass if you go to the Walk. I loved this event and if you come, I know that you will too!

IMG_8073

Eva and Mung

To register for Walk With Me, visit http://www.walkwithme.org/philadelphia

Wheelchairs and Accommodations at Northcott

by Sandy Masayko

This is the fourth post in a series of post from Sandy’s visit to Australia

Exploring the farm is part of the fun of living there. But for an 11-year-old boy who was being jostled about in his chair because the standard wheels on his current chair are not designed for uneven terrain, exploration was not so much fun and not really safe. Adapting the power wheelchair so that his young client can drive all around the dirt roads on his family’s farm was the focus of Northcott OT Santheesh Thiruchelvam’s day on Feb. 15. We accompanied Santheesh on a one-hour drive into the country to meet with his young client and the boy’s family.

Santheesh had arranged for a vendor for an Australian wheelchair company, Glide, to bring wheelchairs with wider tires out to the farm for some test drives. As soon as he was in the new chair, the boy took off down a dirt road, turned around and returned with a grin on his face. He really liked the smoother ride on the larger tires. Next challenge was driving into his parent’s van. This test revealed that the tires were too large for van entry. Next trial was with a chair fitted with slightly more narrow tires. The second trial proved that with the narrow tires chair could go up the ramp.

2-15-17-wc-eval

OT Santheesh Thiruchelvam supervises his client’s trial with a power wheel chair adapted with wide tires for uneven terrain.

2-15-17wc-eval-driving-up-ramp

Although the tires on this wheelchair proved to be too wide for the child to drive into his parents’ van, when he tried another chair with more narrow tires the child was successful. His OT, father and Cristen Reat of Easterseals Houston look on.

After returning to Northcott, we met with Tara Ozturk who is an Accommodations Services Manager. She oversees the operations of several community living arrangements where folks can live in their own apartments, in shared or independent housing. Support is given as needed from the workers on staff according to the plan developed with the customers. We visited an accessible garden apartment complex where 12 people live in 8 apartments with some common space for barbecues, gardens and meetings. Residents proudly showed us their apartments. Northcott has a network of housing and supported independent living services throughout the area, giving people with disabilities choices in housing.

accommodations-in-g

Tara Ozturk, Cristen Reat, a Support Worker and Sandy Masayko chatted in the garden courtyard of a shared housing apartment complex.

Read the first post here, the second here and the third here.

Cheltenham High School: Twelve Years of Holiday Giving

by Adrienne Young

When my daughter Amber was a junior at Cheltenham High School she was also on their Charities Committee. In 2004, they were looking for a new organization purchase holiday gifts for, annually. Amber immediately said, “What about Easter Seals?!” Since then, the tradition has continued. This is the twelfth year that each homeroom at Cheltenham is given names of several preschoolers in the Bucks Division, and based on what their favorite toy items are, has made gift purchases with their own money.

The Charities Committee comes with Mr. Hasty, their Advisor, in a truck loaded with presents for every child in our building. They participate in our Holiday Sing-a-Long and then spend time with the preschoolers and their family members chatting, playing games and eating pizza. Watching our preschoolers open their gifts with excitement puts smiles on the faces of all of the Cheltenham students. I also see this relationship as a gift to the high school students, because they are learning the importance of giving and making a difference in the lives of others.

We so appreciate their generosity and look forward to continuing this tradition with Cheltenham High School for many years to come.

img_2734

Please Don’t Tell Me You’re Sorry

by Brittany Reiger

As time goes on and I add more kids to Team Spectrum, I hear the phrase “I’m Sorry” more.

My kids are overboard quirky and I do not make them “hide” that. So, I find myself telling strangers quite often that all three are autistic. I have no shame in it, and I feel if people know, they will understand and be more accepting. Then, I wait for it…what they’ll say. Most of the time it’s “I’m sorry.” I sometimes get “WOW!” There are also the times people just stare at me like a deer in the headlights and do not know what to say.

I get it.

Before I was thrown into the land of autism, I would not have known what to say either. I too may have looked like a deer in the headlights.

So, I am here to help you come up with different things to say.

First and foremost, there is no need to be sorry. I am not sorry. They are not sorry. Is our life tough? Sure! Do they make it that way on purpose? No. Do I have the slightest idea what I’m doing? Nope. Is my head spinning every day? Absolutely.

As a matter of fact, there are days I think I should haul myself to the doctor and get myself the same happy liquid Benelli is on.

But here’s why you shouldn’t be sorry..

My kids are probably the coolest people I know. I may be biased, but they are absolutely kick ass kids. I don’t always feel I deserve to be their Mom because they are so cool. The reason parenting them is hard and I have my days, is because they speak a different language than I do. As a matter of fact, they have a completely different brain than I do. I am really hard on myself all the time about whether or not I am doing the right thing for them. I am sorry that I probably fail them or do not understand them enough, but I am NEVER sorry for who they are.

They have taught me things a typical child wouldn’t. They have taught me patience, humbleness, devotion, hard work, and perseverance. They taught me to be selfless and to be a good person. They have taught me words aren’t a necessary thing, all you really need in this world is love. They have taught me there is not a one size fits all for intelligence. They have taught me to forgive more easily. They have taught me that you do not need to worry so much about everything. Most importantly, they taught me that it is in fact imperfection that is beautiful.

My children will love you no matter who you are. Benelli’s best friend is a homeless man who plays the bongos on the streets of Philly. She doesn’t care about his past or who he is, she loves him because he includes her, he remembers her. I have watched countless families turn their heads away from this man and tell their children not to look, while mine are having a rock out session with him on the streets with his bongos.

My kids do not care what is cool. They do not care about the latest toy craze. They do not care when we walk through the toy section. My kids would be perfectly happy to play with a stick or a leaf.

When we are outside, they look to the sky squealing and flapping, the biggest smiles you could ever imagine. I wish I could see what the world looked like to them. How amazing would it be if we all saw our Earth that way? Maybe we would treat it better.

They teach me lessons every single day. They do not hate, they do not fear. They love, they accept.

So, do not be sorry for me. In fact, I may feel sorry for you. I may feel sorry that you have not had the same opportunities as me to see the beauty in the world being guided by some of the most beautiful souls to bless our planet.

So, next time someone tells you that their child/children are autistic, give them the biggest smile you can and ask them if there is anything you can do to make their life better. Because even through the hardships, even on those days that we can’t muster anymore strength, we get through from the beauty our kids have shown us.

benelli-va

Memories from a Friendship Academy Graduate

by Grace O’Brien

Grace attended the Friendship Academy from the age of 2 1/2 until kindergarten. Today, Grace is an honor student in the sixth grade. Over the winter break, she came to Easter Seals to volunteer. She also wrote her very first blog post about her experience in the Friendship Academy.

Friendship Academy is where I went to preschool. I loved it there. While I was there, I made many new friends. I also learned how to spell many words such as red and yellow.

I loved all of my teachers. Some days in after care, I did yoga! One day in after care I painted my nails. During the summer camp, I learned about camping. I also learned about the clean-up song, which I used to use with my friends when I was little. I occasionally start singing it without even knowing it.

While I was there, I learned a lot about diversity. I learned how to treat others. If I hadn’t gone to the Friendship Academy, I would be a completely different person.

dsc_0031

Grace performing in her holiday show at the Friendship Academy

dsc_0543-1

Grace taking pictures of the holiday show this year

img_7601

Grace helping the music therapist Grace with the program

dsc_0011

Grace with one of her classmates, Cara, from Friendship Academy

Save