Category Archives: Tips from therapists

Easter Seals Joins Other Philly Agencies to Learn About Low Cost Adaptations

by Sandy Masayko

With support from a grant from the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, Temple University’s Institute on Disabilities has partnered with the Adaptive Design Association and community agencies in fabrication of adaptive equipment (seats, slant boards, wheel chair trays, mobility devices, etc.) from tri-wall cardboard.  Easter Seals supported the grant and is very pleased that three of our staff members are participating in the program.

Assistive Technology Specialist Laurie G. McGowan and Occupational Therapist Adrienne Krysiuk traveled to New York City in March for a one day introduction to the processes of making adaptive equipment. Cathleen Thompson, Occupational Therapist, completed the introductory training on another day. Now the three Easter Seals staff members are ready to participate in six additional training days in May and June to become expert at using this low cost material to fabricate adaptive equipment. The May and June sessions will take place at Philadelphia Woodworks in Manayunk.

We will have the opportunity to train another team in the summer.

ADA team 2

 From left: Rochelle Mendonca, Temple University Occupational Therapy Program, Deb DeVito, Elwyn and Laurie G. McGowan of Easter Seals worked together to learn how to assemble triwall into a seat.

Adrienne ADA

Adrienne Krysiuk checking out the Tippy Chair that she created with her team

ADA chair

Example of a customized and personalized chair made by a team at the Adaptive Design Association.

For more information about the Adaptive Design Association, visit http://www.adaptivedesign.org/

Cinnamon-Scented Ornaments

by Alyssa Brief MS, OTR/L & Rachel Rosenblum MS OTR/L

Occupational Therapy activities can multiple therapeutic benefits…in addition to being fun! Below is wonderful activity that is sure to be a hit!

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Materials:

  1. 3/4 cup Applesauce
  2. 2 bottles of ground cinnamon (2.37 oz each)
  3. Parchment paper
  4. Ribbon or yarn
  5. Cookie cutters
  6. Toothpick

Directions:

Mix applesauce and cinnamon into a mixing bowl, stirring or kneading until material reaches dough consistency. Scoop out a handful of dough and place onto parchment paper on flat surface. Place another sheet of parchment paper over dough and flatten until dough is about 1/4″ thick. Peel top sheet off of dough and stamp cookie cutter into dough, peeling away the excess dough around the border. Use a toothpick to make a hole in dough towards top of ornament. Depending on thickness of dough, ornament will need at least 24 hours to dry into hardened ornament. Once dry, thread ribbon through the hole and tie a double knot at desired length.

Sensory benefits of activity: Using the spice of cinnamon stimulates the olfactory sense, or sense of smell. Kneading and flattening the dough provides tactile input through the sense of touch. It also provides opportunity to explore and discuss the texture if it feels sticky, smooth, wet, mushy, etc. Interacting with the dough provides a sensory-rich play experience.

Motor benefits of activity: Pouring in the ingredients works on using graded movements, or knowing how much force is needed to complete a task, to avoid spilling. Kneading and flattening the dough promotes fine motor hand and finger strengthening. Mixing the dough and stamping cookie cutters provide opportunities to use a variety of grasp patterns during functional tool use. Stabilizing the mixing bowl with one hand while stirring with the other encourages bilateral coordination, or using both hands to complete a task.

Cognitive benefits of activity: This activity requires completing steps in a certain order, or a sequence, in order to be complete. This can promote understanding of how a task can be completed start to finish, and can reinforce the concept of “first ___, then ____” while having fun!

Self-Care benefits of activity: A hand-washing routine can be incorporated in this activity such as before and after to work on this skill. Also the clean-up process provides an opportunity to practice cleaning up after oneself such as wiping the table or making a trip to the garbage.

Hope you enjoy!

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.

charlene-coaching

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.

catherine-suzie

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.

Easter Seals of SEPA: A Leader In Developing Communication Using Eye Gaze Technology With Young Children!

by Sandy Masayko

In November 2016,  Joy S. McGowan, Sandy Masayko, and Melissa Spada presented a seminar on “Developing Communication in Young Children Using Eye-Gaze Technology” at the national convention of the America Speech-Language-Hearing Association in Philadelphia.  The presentation was accepted for the conference after competitive peer review.

Easter Seals of SEPA provides the Assistive Technology resources and support to evaluate and implement eye tracking technology for communication for children who have limited speech production and motor difficulties. Our Easter Seals team presented training guidelines to determine candidacy for successful use of an eye-tracking system.

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Fact Sheet & Myth Buster

by Ani Soghomonian & Bridget M. Coady, MA CCC-SLP

As a speech-language pathologist in the preschool setting, I often use pictures, devices, and language boards to help children communicate and learn language. These are known as “augmentative and alternative communication” (AAC) methods. AAC can teach language vocabulary and structure, and enhance the communication of children with special needs. Sometimes, parents express concern that these visual supports and communication devices will hinder or replace their child’s natural verbal speech. This is not true. “Are we giving up on their verbal speech?” parents ask. “But I want my child to talk,” they say. In order to address these concerns, I recently created a handout in collaboration with a speech-language pathology graduate student who worked with me at Easter Seals. The graduate student researched articles on AAC and its impact on speech and language development. Together, we translated the research into easily understandable terms. The end result was a parent-friendly, research-based fact sheet about AAC.

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)
Fact Sheet & Myth Buster
“Communication is the essence of human life” -Janice Light (1997)

 1)What is AAC?

  • A way to enhance the communication of people who have significant speech and language impairments (Light, Binger, Agate, & Ramsay, 1999)
  • AAC can have positive benefits for natural speech production—using AAC intervention will NOT inhibit the production of speech
  • A way to help language skills develop (Romski & Sevcik, 1996)
  • Includes all forms of communication (other than oral speech) that are used to express thoughts, needs, wants, and ideas (ASHA)

picture icons, speech-generating devices, gestures/signs, language boards

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2) I’m worried my child’s speech production will be inhibited if he/she continues to use AAC as a way to communicate. What if AAC negatively impacts my child’s ability to learn speech?

  • AAC will actually facilitate the development of speech for many children with developmental disabilities (Romski & Sevcik, 1996)
  • This is no research that suggests AAC will hinder the development of natural speech
  • AAC is highly beneficial because it may:
    • Reduce the pressure on the child to speak verbally
      • This can reduce stress and facilitate the production of speech naturally (Lloyd & Kangas, 1994)
    • Reduce the motor and cognitive demands of speaking, and focus on the goal of getting the message across instead

3) What is communicative competence?

  • It is a child effectively communicating his/her message to the listener
  • It is the central goal of AAC intervention (Light, 1997)
  • AAC can help create effective communicators
  • It is about the people:
    • AAC is just the tool; it is the people and the interaction between them that is the main focus!
  • It is learned:
    • Children must be taught how to use their AAC system to be effective communicators
    • It is a step-by-step process that takes hard work, commitment, and instruction—that’s where SLPs and parents come in!

4) How do we build communicative competence? (5 steps)

  • Identify meaningful and appropriate opportunities for communication
  • Prepare for these opportunities by teaching the child who uses AAC
  • Ensure conversational partners provide support, such modeling use of AAC system
  • Have the child participate in these opportunities at home and in the classroom
  • Reflect on experiences and learn through them
  • It focuses on the 4 purposes of communication:
    • To express our needs and wants
    • To build relationships or friendships with others (Light, 1988)
    • To share information (Light, 1988)
    • To use social etiquette; For example, “Thank you, have a good day” (Light, 1988)

5) My child has been using AAC in speech therapy for a while now, but I am not seeing any increase in the amount of speech he/she is producing. Should I be concerned?

  • Each child’s speech and language development is highly individualized, so there is not a straightforward answer. However, research shows that some individuals who are using AAC intervention may take somewhere between 6-25 sessions to show speech gains (Millar, Light, & Schlosser, 2006)
  • Your child’s SLP will monitor the effectiveness of the AAC system on communicative competence, social interaction, language skills, and speech production.
  • Your child’s intervention will be changed as deemed necessary, and in the best interest of your child and your family.

Main Points:

  • SLPs and parents should not hesitate to use AAC with children whose speech is inadequate to meet their communication needs.
  • AAC has significant benefits for developing the language skills and communicative competence of many children.
  • AAC can have positive benefits for natural speech production—using AAC will NOT inhibit the production of speech!

Additional Information:

References

Light, J. (1988). Interaction involving individuals using augmentative and alternative communication: State of the art and future research directions. Augmentative and               Alternative Communication, 4, 66–82

Light, J. (1997). “Communication is the essence of human life”: Reflections on communicative competence. Augmentative and Alternative Communication13(2), 61-70.

Light, J. C., Binger, C., Agate, T. L., & Ramsay, K. N. (1999). Teaching partner-focused questions to individuals who use augmentative and alternative communication to enhancetheir communicative competence. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research42(1), 241-255.

Lloyd, L. L., & Kangas, K. (1994). Augmentative and alternative communication. In G. H. Shames, E. H. Wiig, &

  1. A.Secord(Eds.),Humancommunicationdisorders (4th ed., pp. 606–657). New York: Merrill/Macmillan

Lloyd, L. L. & Kangas, K. (1944). Augmentative and alternative communication. In G.H. Shames, E. H., Wiig, & W.A. Secord (Eds.), Human communication disorders (4th ed., pp 606-657). New York: Merrill/Macmillan.

Millar, D. C., Light, J. C., & Schlosser, R. W. (2006). The impact of augmentative and alternative communication intervention on the speech production of individuals with          developmental disabilities: A research review. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research49(2), 248-264.

Romski, M. A., & Sevcik, R. A. (1996). Breaking the speech barrier: Language development through augmented means. Brookes Publishing Company, Maple Press Distribution Center, I-83 Industrial Park, PO Box 15100, York, PA 17405.

 

Seasonal Sensory Success

by Alyssa Brief, MS, OTR/L

Making PlayDoh from scratch with common household items is a tried and trusted OT activity that can provide opportunities to develop hand skills while providing sensory input. With the holiday season now upon us, my OT group at the Philadelphia division’s Approved Private School recently enjoyed a seasonal twist to the traditional recipe- Gingerbread PlayDoh! This is an excellent (and wonderfully scented) therapeutic activity that is safe to eat since it is made exclusively with baking items. Making homemade Gingerbread PlayDoh can literally add some spice into families’ lives during vacation time off from school or on a Snow Day. Fun and safe for all ages and abilities, Gingerbread PlayDoh offers a fun play experience for children who are sensory seekers. This holiday season, I’m feeling incredibly thankful and lucky that facilitating creative sensory play opportunities is part of my job as an Occupational Therapist at Easter Seals.

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Gingerbread PlayDoh Recipe:
1 Cup Flour
1/2 Cup Salt
1/2 Tbsp Ground Ginger
1/2 Tbsp Ground Cinnamon
1 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
1/2 Cup Water
Mix ingredients together and knead until the ingredients reach consistency of PlayDoh. For longer lasting use, keep refrigerated in a sealed container. Enjoy!

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My Crazy Fulfilling Year at Easter Seals

by Shannon Mahoney

After graduation, all Speech Language Pathologists (SLPs) must complete a Clinical Fellowship Year (CFY). The “year” is approximately nine months of working at their first job under the supervision of a licensed SLP. After this time, and with all the approved documentation, a Clinical Fellow (CF) receives a Certificate of Clinical Competence showing they are now a certified SLP; no longer in need of supervision. I recently completed my CFY at Easter Seals of SEPA. In the beginning I called my CFY a Complete Failure, but with the help of my fellow SLPs, an amazing classroom staff, and supportive supervisors, I now consider it the most Crazy Fulfilling Year of my life.

The transition from years as a student to a working adult was a jarring experience and I felt overwhelmed when I started treating students at our Early Intervention Center. There are so many people that can be involved within one single case, such as service coordinators, special instructors, speech/occupational/physical therapists, regular education teachers, parents, behavior specialists, and various support staff. As part of the team, I was initially unaware of the amount of communication and correspondence necessary to help my students succeed. I can only imagine what a parent must feel like going through the “system” as well.

As an early intervention provider, we are sometimes the first contact families have had with special education services. Being part of their satisfaction with the program and ultimately, the progress of their child’s abilities was a daunting task at first. However, with the passion of each of my coworkers and the respect and appreciation from each of my families, I slowly began to become comfortable and confident in my clinical decisions. They helped me turn what I thought of as a complete failure, into one crazy fulfilling job. Working at Easter Seals has been the proudest moment for me because every single staff in this organization has the best interest of our students as their number one priority.

Our classroom teachers are constantly working to create engaging lesson plans using their skills to adapt tasks that our children can interact with and increase the students’ academic skills. My classroom teacher fought for the rights of each of her students if she felt they needed a different education setting or more supportive services put into place. She instilled in me a sense of passion for this job and the unyielding dedication to her students that all of our staff possess. My supervisor and director provided the most hospitable working environment that showed me how important it is to welcome families and make them feel comfortable during uncertain times. The other therapists in the building taught me the essentials of being a good clinician and that learning does not end; even if we are no longer considered students ourselves.

In the end, I learned more during my first 9 months at this institution than a person could have gained from years of schooling. The knowledge that I have been imparted from by my coworkers is invaluable because every day I saw people doing what they love. Even with a rough start, I can now say that I love what I do. I believe it is because of the values instilled in each employee at Easter Seals that makes this place so special. It is my hope that our families also see the passion and devotion that I see every day when I come to work. They are the reason we are here, and their children are why we all love what we do.