Category Archives: General info

Social Emotional Learning Elf

by Lisa Wzorek, OTD, OTR/L

This week I decided to do an experiment with our Elf on the Shelf.  Our son recently turned 10 but surprisingly (and gratefully on my part, I will add!) still believes in the magic of the Elf.  I won’t lie and say that the pandemic has been easy for us at home; our son is an only child and is participating in virtual learning, so his interaction with other kids his age is very limited. 

Like most families, we have good days and bad days with all of us at home together all day, every day.  Because I have such an interest in social emotional learning and adding that to my practice as an OT, I decided to experiment with the Elf as a partner in crime regarding helping my son’s outlook.  When he wakes in the morning, he will typically search for the Elf in the house.  Along with a surprise location of the Elf, I started leaving positive notes “written” by the Elf.  The notes always praise something good that he did the day before.  For example, Friday he cleaned his schoolwork area without being asked to, so on Saturday he woke up to a note that read, “You cleaned your school area without being asked! That is being a good helper!  Your Elf.”  Another note read, “Awesome job reading yesterday!”  Now, I know I did not invent this idea of a positive note-leaving Elf; I’m sure many other parents have thought about this as well!  Sometimes it is hard for us to think of the good things we are doing, but it certainly feels good when it is pointed out to us. 

Activities like this help us to keep focused on the positive things we are doing.  And, how nice to start the day with a compliment! So, what is the verdict on the experiment? I can report, although it has only been a week, that my son starts the day with a big smile and has been doing some things around the house without me asking him.  I would say, so far, so good!

Holiday Mindfulness Activity Ideas

by Lisa Wzorek, OTD, OTR/L

It is officially holiday season, which although for many is a joyous time, it can also be a time of sadness and increased stress for others.  This year brings more of a challenge to celebrating the holidays while living with the COVID-19 pandemic.  Even though we have been living with the pandemic since March, and the related closures and recommendations for social distancing, it can be upsetting and unsettling to not be able to celebrate holidays the way we normally would.  And this can be harder to understand for our children.  Spending time with our immediate families on some mindfulness activities can help alleviate the stress we are feeling.  Doing a stroll around the internet, I found a variety of activities and resources that may satisfy this need to take some breathes, acknowledge how we all are feeling, and find the gratitude in what we do have in this time of pandemic.  One of my favorite mindfulness activities this time of year is taking an after-dark walk in the neighborhood to enjoy the lights and decorations that people have put up.  Bundle up, make some hot cocoa and grab flashlights for this activity with your family.  Wishing all a safe, healthy and peaceful holiday season!

Christmas-related Mindfulness Activities:

  1.  From the website Counselor Keri, follow the link for instructions and activities.  I like the breathing exercise called Breathe Like Santa, the listening activity called Shake the Bells, and make your own snow globe or a “snow” mindfulness jar.  https://www.counselorkeri.com/2019/11/29/christmas-mindfulness-activities/
  •  From the blog Education’s Voice, follow this link for activities and instructions.  I like the
    Christmas Advent Chain and the YouTube links to Christmas meditation music, which are listed below:

https://educationsvoice.wordpress.com/2017/11/19/mindfulness-in-the-classroom-christmas-mindfulness/

Hanukkah-related Mindfulness Activities:

  1.  From Stress Free Kids, follow this link for activities such as a Light the Menorah medication:  https://stressfreekids.com/13199/hanukkah-with-kids/
  •  On this webpage by Swami Mommi, this is a great article about teaching about diversity and a variety of mindful Hanukkah activities:
  •  This link has a free, printable Menorah coloring page:

https://www.bigactivities.com/coloring/hanukkah/menorahs/menorah2.php

  •  This link contains a simple craft activity, making a paper plate Menorah:

Kwanzaa-Related Mindfulness Activities:

  1.  If you celebrate Kwanzaa or would like to learn what Kwanzaa is about, check out this website that discusses the five traditions of Kwanzaa:

https://people.howstuffworks.com/culture-traditions/cultural-traditions/5-kwanzaa-traditions.htm

  •  Kwanzaa-related crafts and information at this website.  I like the Kwanzaa wreath using hand cut outs and the Kinara place mat. 
  •  Other link for Kwanzaa crafts and information.  I like the crafts using corn kernals and the African drum idea: 

https://www.activityvillage.co.uk/kwanzaa-crafts

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.