Category Archives: General info

It feels good to do good

by Kristine DelMonte, Development Specialist
 
This week I am attending a virtual conference from my makeshift (and yet somehow more and more permanent) office in my dining room.
 
It is an annual conference for fundraising professionals hosted by Blackbaud, the platform Easterseals uses to manage donor data.
 
Initially, I wasn’t super excited to be glued to my computer for Zoom Keynotes and Zoom breakout sessions and Zoom networking (what even is that?). That PLUS my regular Zoom meetings seemed like maybe too much zooming.
 
Then, the people at Blackbaud scored Amy Poehler as a keynote speaker.
 
(If you don’t know Amy Poehler’s alter-ego Leslie Knope from the long-running TV show Parks & Rec, you *must* go right now and binge-watch it on Netflix. It is a definite pandemic pick-me-up.)
 
#BBCON, you had me at Amy Poehler.
 
Leslie Knope is known for her commemorative scrapbooks and detailed event binders, her dedication to her job, and her enthusiastic encouragement of absolutely everyone to be their very best. She is the ultimate development professional: nothing gets her down, she can always find a way to work around a “no,” and she has never-ending energy.
 
(I kind of love Leslie Knope.)
 
But it was the actress, not the character giving the keynote, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.
 
Turns out, Amy Poehler is her own brand of Leslie Knope, having recently started “Amy’s Smart Girls,” a nonprofit “dedicated to helping young people cultivate their authentic selves.”
 
She was amazing.


 
She talked about the physicality of doing her voice work as the character “Joy” in Disney Pixar’s Inside Out. She talked about the world right now, about finding happiness in uncertainty, and about philanthropy.
 
Two things she said stuck out to me.
 
First, she said “Do work you are proud of with your talented friends.”
 
CHECK. I am proud of the work we do at Easterseals. It’s SO hard right now because of COVID pivots and uncertainty, but I know that what we are doing makes a difference in the lives of the kids and families we serve. And boy do we have some amazing talent. From our teachers and assistants to our PT/OT/Speech and Music therapists to our Assistive Tech Department and even accounting, we have staff that work here because they love it, and it shows.
 
Then, when talking about philanthropic giving, she said “Giving is self-care.”
 
It feels good to do good.
 
Leslie Knope couldn’t have said it better herself.  
 
As we approach the season of giving, I don’t want our donors to “give till it hurts.”
 
I want to help our donors learn more about what we do, about how we serve people with disabilities, and how we continue to serve families through COVID. I want donors to get Leslie Knope-level excited about our mission. I want them to understand why their gifts are so critical (especially now), and to see the absolute joy on a child’s face when they achieve a goal… a goal made real in part because of our donors’ gifts. 
 
I want our donors to give until it feels good.
 
I’d even be willing to make a scrapbook to commemorate the occasion.

Mindfulness Activities for All!

by Lisa S. Wzorek, MA, OTR/L

I wanted to share a few activities that can be done to help our children (and ourselves) practice mindfulness, based on last week’s post.  One activity is a tried and true one in my family, and the other is a new one that we tried over this past week.

One thing that I loved doing as a shy and introverted kid to be calm and away from my loud family was building a fort.  It was usually a small, dark space but it was my own space and a great getaway.  Lots of people and classrooms these days use tents as a “calm corner” for our children to have a place to be calm.  When my son was younger, I discovered a fun and easy way to make a tent without the need to purchase another item:  simply putting a sheet over our table!  Then we would pile blankets, pillows and stuffed animals inside.  Calm and relaxing!  The one we made in the picture below is using a lighter sheet.  You can make use a dark sheet or blanket to make the space darker.  You can also put your child’s favorite toys, books, light up toys and wands, and flashlights.

Screen Shot 2020-05-28 at 11.18.51 AM

Another activity is making a Mindfulness Jar.  You can google this and find different names for it, such as Calming Jar, Meditation Jar, Time-Out Jar, etc.  I found two simple recipes that work really well and, if you are a crafter, you may already have all of the ingredients at home.

Screen Shot 2020-05-28 at 11.19.13 AM

 

For the calming jar, you can use an empty plastic bottle or a glass jar.  If you have a child that tends to throw objects, the plastic bottle may be your best option.  You can use white glue if that is what you have, too.  This activity is, in itself, very calming!  Fill your container about 1/3 of the way with glue, add about 2 tablespoons of glitter (or however much you want!), then fill the rest of the way with warm water from the tap.  At this time, you can add 1-2 drops of food coloring into the mix if you like.  Cap it and shake it up until all of the ingredients are mixed together.  Here are some of our finished products:

You may be wondering…what do you do with the jars and how do they work?  Sit with the jars when you need a calm moment and give them a good shake.  Set the jar down and watch the glitter swirl.  Focus on the movement of the glitter and take some nice, deep breaths.  Focusing and breathing helps to calm our brains and our bodies.  Do this until the glitter settles down; then do it again, if you like!  When you do this with your child, describe what is happening in the jar.  This will help them to focus just on the movement of the glitter and to be mindful.

The act of “doing” with both of these activities has both strengthening and healing components.  We’ve already pointed out the aspect of mindfulness and calming.  But making our tent and our jars also taps into problem-solving, motor planning, visual motor skills, visual perceptual skills and fine motor skills.   Maybe even some math if you are able to work on measuring with your child.  If your child cannot participate in building the tent or making the jars, talk out the steps you are doing and bring them into the activity in this way.  Talk about the colors you are using, the textures (sticky, wet, warm, messy) and help them to experience it, too.  Maybe you can try different positioning with your child inside the tent to read books together and play flashlight tag.  Hope you enjoy these mindful activities!

A therapeutic gift from a friend!

by Kathryn Murphy, MSPT

My name is Kathryn and I am a Physical Therapist at Bucks. With all of the virtual services going on now, I do not have all of the tools at my home that I need for my sessions. I had a friend of mine, Mike, come to my rescue. I met Mike a few years ago at the indoor rock climbing gym where I climb. He recently purchased 3-D printer. He printed me a red shaker and even did a non-contact drop off!

This shaker filled with rice will help me:

  • Get the visual attention of my students with decreased vision.
  • As a teaching aide for parents. I can now show them exactly where to place a toy with their child when working on gross motor skills. I use a doll to help teach parents and now I have a toy!
  • Get the attention of the student using their hearing.
  • Cheer for my students in a fun way when they do something great!
  • Participate in music class with Ms. Amanda 😉

 

THANK YOU MIKE!

 

Navigating Teletherapy

by Adrienne Krysiuk MS, OTR/L

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My first day of work and I was super excited to see my kiddos since it has been a few weeks since I saw them last. I was also super nervous and anxious about doing teletherapy. I kept asking the questions, how was I going to manage a caseload of 17 plus kids and manage my own five year old? Most importantly, I could not understand how I was going to effectively provide occupational therapy intervention with preschoolers who have Autism Spectrum Disorder through a little screen. As the 2019-2020 school year already had its own set of challenges, not one of us could figure out how to do this type of hands off interaction with our Easterseals kids through this platform. As we reflected, the slew of emails arrived and we really started to panic. We all started going to online trainings, reading blogs and asking questions, conducted team meetings and practice runs with our colleagues. We all became computer experts in zoom and GoTo Meeting, we connected with colleagues and families throughout the day, sitting for longer than any of us are used to and then we became the minority of people who are still part of the workforce.

Since practicing teleintervention for a few weeks now, I am still trying to manage a hectic schedule between work and family. My son at this moment is trying to lay low because he knows he is getting away with watching way too much TV and no one has been after him to do his school work for awhile. The overall challenge of teletherapy has been a good learning experience and now familiar. In fact, at this point in time, I am a proponent of teleintervention and I feel this could be offered as part of the IEP plan. Of course I would rather be working directly with my kids and coworkers, but we (the school team) have always discussed how beneficial it would be to have a better way to follow up at home. When you are working on certain skills, such as managing challenging behaviors or carrying over potty training, it would be very helpful to coach the parent more directly in the child’s home environment; to really bridge the gap between home and school and further support our kiddos success. This unfortunate pandemic event has been that opportunity, possibly causing positive change and providing more options and choices for our families.

It has been an adjustment period for the parents to say the least and I give a shout out to all of our special needs parents out there, we see you and you are doing a great job, so hang in there, we got your back. Again, looking on the bright side through this unique time, I also find myself appreciating the small things that help me get through the day, one benefit I enjoy, I know many people share this with me, is illustrated in the picture. I cannot complain about the reduction of my now nonexistent commute, being able to get ready for work in 15 minutes or even caring if my comfy uniform matches or represents the correct season; dressed in my Easterseals teletherapy uniform.

 

Communication Board for Home

Visual supports can be an important tool in helping to facilitate communication. Throughout our centers, these visual supports are everywhere. They help children understand schedules and behavior expectations. They allow children to communicate with family, teachers and therapists about their needs and feelings.

The Assistive Technology team has created a visual communication board for families to use at home. This board contains vocabulary that is most relevant to preschoolers.

We hope you find this helpful! Stay tuned for middle school and high school versions.

Covid Communication Board

 

Here is a pdf version as well

Covid Communication Board

How to Make Good Use of Your Time While School Is Closed

by Sandy Masayko

READ with your child! 

The most important thing is to have fun.

  • Take time to talk about the pictures and ask questions of your child. What do you think is going to happen? Who is doing what? Where are they? What are those? Do we have some of those? What do you think is going to happen next?
  • You don’t have to read the story word for word.
  • Make your own books. Make up stories about your child, your family and pets.  Use family photos or draw simple stick figures; download pictures from the Internet.

Here’s a great website for guidance on reading with a young child:

https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/304-how-to-introduce-toddlers-and-babies-to-books

SING with your child!

Your voice is the most beautiful voice in the world to your child.  You don’t need be Beyoncé to sing with your child.

And, do you know that singing rhyming songs helps to get your child ready to read?

  • All the old favorites, from ABC’s, Twinkle Twinkle, Wheels on the Bus, Happy Birthday, Old MacDonald to BINGO are good. Think of songs you liked as a child and sing those.
  • Personalize songs by putting your child’s name in the song instead of the usual name.
  • Spell out your child’s name by singing it to a favorite tune. For example, sing the Happy Birthday song with your child’s letters.

Here are some more ideas:

http://www.hanen.org/Helpful-Info/Fun-Activities/How-to-Sing-with-Babies-The-Hanen-Way.aspx

COOK with your child!

Cooking can be play—show your child how you make foods.  This will take some planning for safety, and you don’t want to be in a rush.

  • Show your child how you open, pour, chop, cut, slice, stir, bake, fry & more. Talk about these things as do them.
  • If your child can help stir or participate in any way, let them help.
  • Make Jell-O and see what happens if you leave some outside of the refrigerator, and what happens if you put some in the freezer. Talk to your child about the changes that happen.  This is food science!
  • Have taste tests: try out new tastes and talk about sour, sweet, bitter, salty, crunchy, smooth, soft.

Here is a website with more ideas:

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/Pages/Cooking-With-Your-Children.aspx

Have fun and let us know about your favorite activities. We will be waiting to hear from you!

 

 

 

 

 

Positive Behavior Interventions & Supports (PBIS) Parent Video Series Part 1

As we all find ourselves at home to help flatten the curve of COVID-19, Easterseals would like to help provide some helpful resources.

Our Director of Behavioral Support Services, Danielle Franchini-Muir, MS Ed., BCBA, is developing a video series to help families implement positive behavior intervention supports at home.

In this first video, Danielle gives an overview of what positive behavior intervention supports (PBIS) is and how you can begin to implement this helpful tool at home.

Activities from a Speech Therapist

by Molly Fischman, MS, CCC-SLP

As you now know, Easterseals programs and community-based therapies are closed until March 27th in correspondence with the school district and state policies regarding the outbreak of Covid-19.

In the meantime, if you find yourself at home looking for therapeutic games or activities for your child, here are some ideas of things to do while keeping everyone healthy and safe.

Activity Ideas

  • Make a sensory bin by putting dried beans or rice in a tupperware bin with other small objects/figures like the ones here. Have your child dig through and name what they find.
  • Make slime with your child. Here is a recipe with items you might have. If you don’t have those ingredients, make “Oobleck” with cornstarch and water.

  • Tape pieces of paper together and create a mural with your child using paints, crayons, or markers.

  • Work on sorting shapes: Put tape on the floor in the form of different shapes and have your child sort objects from around the house into piles according to shape. Or, have your child sort small items by color into muffin tins. If you have a printer, here is a free printable that targets the same skill. (If your child is able, they can cut out the pictures with help!)

  • If you have access to a printer, print some worksheets and have your child name pictured objects, practice making circles and Xs, and work on visual attention with search-and-find or connect-the-dots worksheets.

  • Bake cookies with your child. Talk about and name the ingredients, help your child measure the ingredients and count scoops. Here is a simple cookie recipe with ingredients you might have around the house.

  • Go on a scavenger hunt around the house. Work on vocabulary for different rooms of the house, furniture, clothing, appliances etc. Run around and see who can get to each item first.

  • Read, read, read! With the books you have, read to your child as much and as often as they will attend.

Preschool Learning Games

  • Zingo: Have your child name and match the pictured objects. Practice saying “I got a [object]”, asking “Do you need a [object]?”, and answering Yes/No questions in response.

  • Pop The Pig: Roll the dice and match the color burger to the color on the dice. Practice recognizing and naming numbers 1-4 and then counting the target number when you press down Pop’s head.

  • Zimbbos: Work on saying “[color] + elephant” and fine motor dexterity as you stack elephants.

  • Uno Moo or Uno: practice matching and naming colors/animals or matching colors/numbers.

  • Memory Match games: flip over two cards per turn and say if they are the same or different. If they’re different, flip them back over. If they’re the same, you got a match!

  • If you have a deck of cards and your child is able, teach them to play Go Fish or a modified version.

Stay safe, and don’t be afraid to get creative with your child during this trying time!

Shout Out to our Physical Therapist Alex

by Nequetta Alfred

Pediatric Physical Therapists (PT) are aware of the joy they bring to children and families who achieve great strides even under difficult circumstances. Pediatric PT’s find creative ways and techniques to work with our kiddos who struggle with walking, running, or even jumping. Alex is one of our amazing PT’s at Easterseals who invests her sessions into each child by developing that one to one relationship with the goal of reaching maximum potential. She is patient with our children and consults with all team members involved including our teachers, teacher assistant’s, personal care assistants (PCA’s), behavior therapists, nurses, and the entire team at Easterseals.

Every week she is on time for classroom meetings which start as early as 8:15 am and she is consistent in reaching out to the team to assure an holistic approach. She works well with anyone who comes in contact with and our kiddos love the fun and joy she brings to each session. We see positive results when our therapist are just as excited to work with our kids. If you see Alex please give her a high five or hug for a well done job on simply being amazing at what she does.

During the session in the picture the student received a ride from the PT room back to the classroom while stretching her muscles which was quite funny to the student. The PCA (Tama) was very helpful in assuring safety and consistency with the sessions. One thing we know at Easterseals is a framework that’s built on teamwork surely gets results with the kids who are near and dear to our hearts. It’s so cool to see kids return to class happy and ready for their next session. The student transitioned straight to music and had a great day throughout the remainder of the day. The students day may have started with her teacher or PCA, but clearly ends with understanding it takes a village to keep those beautiful smiles in place while assuring our therapeutic goals are being met.

 
Health conditions that pediatric physical therapists address include:
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Chronic pain
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Cancer
  • Scoliosis
  • Developmental delays and movement disorders resulting from premature birth
 
Resources for parents with kids with PT’s: