Category Archives: General info

There is No “I” in Team

by Adrienne Young

It has been four years since the Bucks Division started on the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) journey to improve the quality of our programs and to bring staff, parents and children together as a team through “positive possibilities.”

This year, we submitted our Benchmarks of Quality, stating that we are providing the proper strategies and supports to staff, children and families related to our behavioral expectations. In May, we were recognized for fidelity by the Pennsylvania Positive Behavior Support Network in Hershey and received a banner that is proudly hanging up in our vestibule. Thanks to all of the parents, staff, from the administrative staff, the classroom staff, therapists, nurses, the coaches, the Core Leadership Team, Mr. Dan, our music therapist and our amazing Facilitator, Meghan von der Embse. And an extra special thanks to Janet Rubien, our former Director of Programs – she was there with us from the start, cheering us on and brainstorming with us as a member of the Core Leadership Team.

PBIS fidelity could not have happened without the team working together and I am so proud to be a part this amazing group!

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Secretary of Education Visits Easter Seals

by Janet Rubien

The Alliance of Approved Private Schools was honored to host Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera, on Thursday May 18th. During the visit, Mr. Rivera toured the Easter Seals Schools in Philadelphia, a school that serves students with profound needs. While stopping in classrooms Mr. Rivera had the opportunity to interact with students, and participate in classroom activities.

After the tour, Mr. Rivera met with members of the Alliance of Approved Private Schools to discuss initiatives from the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE). Mr. Rivera addressed PDE’s commitment and efforts to address Teacher Shortages, Funding, and creating environments where all students can grow to their full potential. Mr. Rivera spoke passionately about protecting and meeting the needs of Special Education children. The Alliance of Approved Private Schools, Mr. Rivera, and PDE are looking forward to working together to help children across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

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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!

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Eva and Mung

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

Last Day in Australia

by Sandy Masayko

This is the final post from Australia and Sandy’s exploration and sharing of assistive technology

1332 stairs! That’s how many stairs my son and I climbed today on the Harbour Bridge Climb. It was a wonderful way to end my study tour in Australia: I now have the broad view of Australian services for people with disabilities! I treasure my many new acquaintances and I’ve seen a wide range of programs that have made me think about how we can adapt some of our programs in Pennsylvania.

  • Thank you to the National Office of Easterseals for selecting me for the study tour.
  • Thank you to Easterseals of SEPA for supporting my trip.
  • And thanks most of all to the hosts during my trip: Northcott, Rocky Bay and Ability Centre, affiliates of Ability First Australia.
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Special thanks to Northcott for the gift of the Bridge Climb passes.

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The Harbour Bridge is 134 meters (440 feet) high. We climbed through intermittent rain today for beautiful views of Sydney.

Sandy has shared her journey through a series of blog posts. You can read the first one here, the second here, the third here, the fourth here, the fifth here, the sixth here, the seventh here, the eighth here, the ninth here and the tenth here.

Finishing Up My Study Tour at Ability Centre in Perth

by Sandy Masayko

This is the tenth post in a series about assistive technology in Australia.

Ability Centre, as with the other two sites I visited, provides an extensive array of services for people with disabilities. My last day on my study tour included learning about a mix of supportive services: CP Tech, a workshop that constructs customized adapted equipment; Goodwill Engineering, an industrial workshop that employs people with disabilities; a meeting with Scott Langmead, a seating specialist in mobility for young children; and a meeting with Hillary Brand, principal of Sir David Brand School, an independent school that serves children with multiple disabilities. The school is not a part of Ability Centre, but the therapy services are provided by Ability Centre.

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Fraser Clarke showed me a computer-controlled drill that can form customized seating from a block of foam at CP Tech.

I climbed up into Fraser Clarke’s SUV for the 15 minute drive to Malaga, north of the Ability Centre’s location, where both CP Tech and Goodwill Engineering are housed in an industrial site. Fraser guided me on a tour of CP Tech, a facility that can fabricate all kinds of adapted equipment and seating. I saw a computer-controlled drill that is capable of forming a customized wheelchair cushion from a block of foam as well as the upholstery workshop and wheelchair repair stations. Goodwill Engineering is attached to CP Tech and looks like any factory although when you look closely you can see many people in wheelchairs at their workstations. The company produces building supplies such as the wires that stabilize brick walls.

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Goodwill Engineering is an industrial site run by Ability Centre that provides employment for people with disabilities.

Back at Ability Centre, I met with Scott Langmead and learned about his development of the Ability Centre’s Wizzy Bug fleet through grant funding. Scott came up with the idea to obtain the little powerchairs after taking a worldwide study tour several years ago and learning about these mobility devices on his trip. Scott has offered to share his paper describing his visits with mobility and seating experts from around the world. I shared some of our Go Baby Go resources with him.

My final visit was to the Sir David Brand School adjacent to the Ability Centre, but not a part of the Centre. Principal Hillary Palmer met with me and gave me a tour of the facilities. We enjoyed comparing and contrasting educational practices of Australia and the US. It seems that parents in Australia are less litigious than parents can be in the US. The school is identified as an independent school, similar to our charter schools in Pennsylvania. It is exclusively for students with multiple disabilities. Contracting with the Ability Centre for therapy services gives the school consistency in therapy staff, unlike some other schools that rely on numerous contractors.

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OT Maria White arranged for me to meet at the Ability Centre with a group of therapists interested in eye gaze technology for young children.

Two weeks can fly by. And that is what has happened with my study tour. It’s been an intense two weeks to meet so many generous people carrying out an amazing array of programs. I am very thankful to Easterseals National Office and Southeastern Pennsylvania for this opportunity. I would especially like to thank Maria White, Scott Langmead, Fraser Clarke, Catherine Greenway and Suzie Cowcher at the Ability Centre for the program that they arranged for me in the past two days, and I’d like to thank the clients for sharing their programs with me also. I hope that we will be able to keep in touch to continue to exchange ideas about programs to support people with disabilities

If you would like to read Sandy’s previous posts, you can find the first one here, the second here, the third here, the fourth here, the fifth here, the sixth here, the seventh here, the eighth here and the ninth here.

Ability Centre in Perth

by Sandy Masayko

This is Sandy’s ninth post in a series about assistive technology in Australia

Ability Centre in North Perth is the last site on my study tour of Ability First Australia affiliates. I continue to be warmly welcomed by my Australian colleagues. Each center that I have visited has had a broad range of programs and each has had some unique programs. At Ability Center, as with Rocky Bay and Northcott, accommodation for people with disabilities is a focus. The living arrangements vary but the old fashioned nursing home for people with disabilities is thing of the past here, having been replaced by small apartments and shared housing with support.

The unique programs at Ability Centre include access to an early mobility device call a Wizzybug. This is a powerchair designed for 1-4 year old children. Not available in the US, the Wizzy comes from the U.K. Ability Centre imports the mini powerchairs for Australians and maintains a fleet that children can trial and borrow. Here is what they look like:

Another unique program developed by Ability Centre therapists is a program to address sleep issues including temperature regulation and positioning during sleep. Using custom-designed bolsters and temperature control fabrics, the Sleep Solution teams can help their clients achieve restful sleep.

OT Maria White was very interested in Easterseals of SEPA’s work with eye gaze technology with young children. She invited a group of therapists from Ability Centre and from community agencies including the Independent Living Center in Perth and Edith Cowan University to hear my presentation of our AT Department study of eye gaze technology with young children. Some therapists participated from remote sites. The therapists asked many pertinent questions and shared their own experiences with implementing eye gaze technology.

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Maria White, in dark blue shirt on the right, organized a group to hear my presentation on eye gaze technology with young children.

I was very pleased to complete the day with therapists at Ability Centre by carrying out client observation and visits. We considered issues around teaching eye gaze technology to a child, adapting access for an adult eye gaze user, and adjusting environmental controls through a phone used by an adult with cerebral palsy and visual impairment. The clients were kind to let me participate in observing them work with their therapists, and all of us discussed alternatives that might make participating in their home and schools easier and more efficient for the clients.

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Speech Therapist Charlene Freedman coaching her young student in using eye gaze technology to select a song that she wants to hear.

Thank you to CEO Suzie Cowcher and Catherine Greenway, General Manager of Therapy and Health Services, for sharing with me their strategies for dealing with the changes in the marketplace, funding and customer relations through implementing prototypes of new systems. There is an Innovation Hub at Ability Centre that is providing leadership in change in the organization.

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Catherine Greenway and Suzie Cowcher

You can read Sandy’s first post in this series here, her second here, the third here, the fourth here, the fifth here, the sixth here, the seventh here and the eighth here.

Innovative Programs at Rocky Bay

by Sandy Masayko

This is the eighth post in a series about assistive technology in Australia

Rocky Bay has several innovative and unique programs. Today, February 21, I spent the day learning about the Community Refurbished Equipment services, Posture Tech, Assistive Technology & Milo, a talking robot who teaches children about emotions and feelings. Expansion of awareness and access to AT through development of AT Mentors in the state is another unique program at Rocky Bay that I heard about.

Refurbished Equipment & Posture Tech

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AT Manager Cheryl Lockland discusses inventory with Ken, the warehouse manager of Community Refurbished Equipment.

Have you ever wondered what happens with used equipment once a person no longer needs it? At Rocky Bay, wheelchairs, bath seats, walking devices and more are refurbished so that they look like new. The devices are available for purchase at about half the cost of what a new item might cost. Look at the photo above to see just a portion of the equipment that is available for people to purchase.

At another Rocky Bay program, Posture Tech, technicians and upholstery specialists can customize and repair equipment to meet individual needs as recommended by therapists. Posture Tech has a complete workshop including a robotically controlled saw that can cut out cushions to match the postural needs of individuals. Posture Tech even has a van and can make calls in the community for repairs and adaptations.

New AT in Australia

Acquiring new Assistive Technology can be challenging for Australians because some items are not released in Australia when they are released in the US. Two examples are the Google Home and the Liftware Steady spoon. At the request of Rocky Bay OT Kelvin Kong, I brought these two devices to Perth so that Kelvin could get a head start in trying them out to be prepared when they are available in the Australian market.

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Kelvin Kong investigates his new AT from the United States at a team meeting.

After presenting the items to Kelvin and the Rocky Bay therapists, I had a discussion with the therapists about the challenges of funding for equipment and services in the US. The therapists are curious about ways to manage funding requests, which may be similar to insurance proposals in the US with the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme in Australia.

Milo the Talking Robot

Another unique program at Rocky Bay is the use of Milo, a talking robot who has the ability to demonstrate facial expressions and to teach children how to interpret emotions. He also can provide strategies for appropriate responses in social situations. Milo is used in conjunction with speech therapy sessions twice a week for a period of 10 weeks. Rocky Bay is researching the effectiveness of this tool. The pilot study indicates that the outcomes are positive.

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Speech Therapist Lauren Constantine and Children’s Program Manager Mai Welsh demonstrated Milo’s ability to teach the meaning of facial expressions and appropriate behavioral responses.

AT Mentors

An additional innovative program at Rocky Bay is a training program for community members to become AT mentors in a nationally accredited certificate programs. The eight participants are being coached by Rocky Bay AT Specialists to provide guidance to community members on the wide array of AT that is available to enhance function. Because the state of Western Australia is about a third of the size of the US, with a population about the size of Chicago, serving people in remote areas is a challenge. By establishing community liaisons who can mentor people who might benefit from technology, Rocky Bay is increasing access to AT for residents of Western Australia.

Sharing with Colleagues

One of the most important aspects of this study tour has been sharing ideas and strategies with other managers of AT Services. Cheryl Lockwood, Manager of AT, and Linda Chiu, Director of Clinical Services have been generous with their time and expertise.

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Cheryl Lockwood, Sandy Masayko & Linda Chiu at a restaurant overlooking the Indian Ocean.

Finishing Up at Rocky Bay

After two days at Rocky Bay, I will finish up in the morning by visiting community living arrangements with Kylie Murphy, Director of Leisure and Independence. Rocky Bay has a wide range of accommodation options for people with disabilities in new apartments and shared housing. It appears that people with disabilities have many more options for accommodations in Australia compared to the US.

Thank You Rocky Bay!

Thank you for the well-planned visit, tours and discussions. I am especially grateful to CEO Michael Tait, Executive Assistant Sally Connor, AT Manager Cheryl Lockwood, Clinical Services Director Linda Chiu, and Leisure and Independence Director Kylie Murphy. I will not forget your kindness and your generosity.

You can read Sandy’s first post here, her second post here, her third post here, the fourth post here, the fifth here, sixth here and finally the seventh here.