Tag Archives: Early Intervention

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.

Dance/Movement Therapy with the Children at Easter Seals

By, Michelle Baxley – Dance/Movement Therapy Intern at Easter Seals Early Intervention Center – SEPA

“What is dance/movement therapy? I’ve never heard of it.” Most often that is the reaction I get when people find out I am getting my masters in dance/movement therapy (DMT) and counseling. It’s an understandable question, as DMT is still a rather new field. DMT sits under the umbrella of the creative arts therapies with art therapy, music therapy, and drama therapy. Since its conception in the 1940s, DMT has grown into an internationally recognized therapy with its own national organization and is recognized as an accredited masters program in several universities around the world.

Here is some information to help you better understand DMT and its application to Easter Seals:

  1. What is dance/movement therapy?

The American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA) defines DMT as “the psychotherapeutic use of movement to promote emotional, social, cognitive and physical integration of the individual” (ADTA.org). What this really means is that dance/movement therapists use movement as a way to assess a person’s level of functioning in a variety of areas as well as using movement as an intervention tool to help an people reach their developmental goals. The end goal is ultimately to better integrate a person’s body and mind.

  1. How do you become a dance/movement therapist?

To become a dance/movement therapist you must complete a two-year master’s program in dance/movement therapy from an ADTA accredited university. Once you receive your master’s degree, you must complete a certain number of clinical working hours with supervision and then you may apply to become a Board Certified dance/movement therapist. I am currently finishing my second year of graduate school at Drexel University and have been interning at Easter Seals Early Intervention Center for the past nine months.

  1. My child has limited movement and is nonverbal. How could he/she benefit from dance/movement therapy?

If you think about it, everyone, even those with the most limited movement abilities, moves in some capacity. Movement is our first language. It is the first way infants explore the world through rolling over, reaching for various objects, and moving objects to and from their mouths and then to potentially crawling and walking. Even a head nod or the gesture of a hand is a movement. Dance/movement therapists use this movement, however small, as a means of nonverbally communicating with the child. We create a personal relationship with the child through movement and help that child find other forms of creative expression besides words.

  1. How does dance/movement therapy help my child at Easter Seals Early Intervention Center?

At Easter Seals Early Intervention Center, I use dance/movement therapy to help students create social interactions with peers; practice problem solving, turn taking, and listening; explore creativity in play; facilitate emotional expression; and promote self and emotional regulation all in a playful and creative environment. All of my goals for these children are aimed at helping them transition into kindergarten. Additionally, I work with the other occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech and language therapists, and music therapists to provide a more holistic treatment approach.

  1. Where can I learn more about dance/movement therapy?

Websites:

  • American Dance Therapy Association –

www.adta.org

      ●      National Coalition of Creative Arts Therapies Associations, Inc –

http://www.nccata.org/

  • Drexel University Master’s in Dance/Movement Therapy and Counseling

http://drexel.edu/cnhp/academics/graduate/MA-Dance-Movement-Therapy-Counseling

Books:

  • Levy, F. J., Fried, J. P., & Leventhal, F. (Eds.) (1995). Dance and other expressive arts therapies. London: Routledge.
  • Naess Lewin, J. L. (1998). Dance therapy notebook. Washington, DC: American Dance Therapy Association.
  • Sandel, S. L., Chaiklin, S., & Lohn, A. (Eds.) (1993). Foundations of dance/movement Therapy: The life and work of Marian Chace. Washington, DC: American Dance Therapy Association.

Videos:

While DMT is still a young field, it is definitely growing and increasing its body of research every year. It’s a versatile therapy that can be adapted for any population. If you have more questions feel free to email me at mbaxley@easterseals-sepa.org.

Happy Moving,

Michelle Baxley,
Dance/Movement Therapy Intern at Easterseals Early Intervention Center – SEPA

Meet Lila and Emma

by Melanie O’Brien

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Lila and Emma are 4-year-old twins whose personalities are as different as night and day. What they do have in common, aside from being adorable, is autism. In addition to autism, they each have unique needs and challenges. Lila, whose needs are more physical, began receiving services when she was about 3-months-old. Her therapists noticed that Emma, whose needs are more medical, might benefit from Early Intervention services for some feeding issues she was having. When it was time for the girls to transition to center-based services, a therapist recommended Easter Seals. Lila and Emma began attending the Early Intervention Center last year. Since they have started, Lila went from not talking, to stringing three words together very quickly. Emma is now starting to use some words. Both girls were given communication devices, that with such amazing progress, they have almost outgrown. Their cognitive skills are really growing and Lila and Emma are becoming quite social! When they aren’t busy wowing their parents, teachers and therapists with their progress, they are busying doing the things all 4-year-olds love. Together, they watch favorite shows, which include Bubble Guppies and Daniel Tiger and enjoying their favorite snack, Goldfish. Emma is big fan of technology. She loves to dance, especially in a twirly skirt. Emma may be Minnie Mouse’s biggest fan. Her wonderful sense of humor and love of laughter means you will often find her with a smile. Lila loves to read, Mickey Mouse is a favorite subject. She is a very affectionate little girl who loves to learn. Her quiet demeanor allows her to happily soak in the world around her. Emma and Lila are beautiful examples of how two girls can look similar, but be so uniquely beautiful.

Join Lila and Emma and all of the Honorary Ambassadors on June 4th at the zoo for our Walk With Me event!

Meet Cassidy

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At 5-years-old, Cassidy is sweetness, determination and sass all rolled into one adorable girl. She definitely does not let her Cerebal Palsy get in her way. After her family began to notice a developmental delay at 8 months, she began receiving home-based services from Easter Seals therapists.  They were all wonderful individuals who Cassidy began to adore. So, when the time came to transition to Preschool, the decision to choose Easter Seals for center-based services was an easy one. On her third birthday, Cassidy began attending the early intervention program in Montgomery County. Since then, with the help of teachers, therapists and her family, she has accomplished some amazing things! She has gone from a very low vocabulary to stringing together three-word sentences. Cassidy can now pull herself up to her walker and use it. Her fine motor skills have really improved, which can be seen in her love for coloring and painting. Arts and creativity seem to be in her genes, which is obvious in her passion for music. She loves music therapy at school and rocking out with her parents at home. Cassidy also has some pretty typical five-year-old passions…pizza, Disney movies and the Sprout Channel. Her charm and determination are powerful combination and we can’t wait to see what she’ll do next!

Meet Cassidy and all the Honorary Ambassadors at Walk With Me on June 4th at the Philadelphia Zoo.

Go Baby Go!

by Susan Lowenstein

At the Bucks County Division, we have fun rolling, walking, running and climbing…our children have many ways they move around to explore their environment. But thanks to funding through our own assistive technology department, along with an enthusiastic team of employees and volunteers, we have also added “driving” to our list of modes of mobility. Yes, you read that correctly. Driving!

Following the lead of an engineer named Cole Galloway at University of Delaware who started the “Go Baby Go” program, we now have several adapted electric cars available at our Bucks County facility to trial with children who do yet have an independent way of moving around on their own. These cars were purchased directly through Toys ‘R Us and are just what you probably pictured in your head – those crazy fun electric cars you might see young children driving on a warm spring day in your own neighborhood.

However, these cars were adapted by a team of volunteers under the direction of Easter Seals’ very own assistive technologist, Laurie McGowan, so that a child with a disability can access specially mounted switches to make the car move. Instead of having to press a pedal with a foot to propel the car forward, our students only have to reach forward and press a large switch (the “go” switch) which is mounted directly in front of them on the steering wheel. In addition to the “go” switch, some of the cars have also been adapted with additional seating support systems, so that a child who is unable to sit up independently can be supported in an upright position and still drive! One of the cars has even been equipped with a horn, which is a switch mounted on the side door and can easily be accessed by a child who is driving the car. So not only can our children drive, but they can “honk” at oncoming pedestrian traffic!

One student who is frequently seen driving down our hallways in our adapted “Barbie” car is Julianna. Julianna can take steps in her adapted gait trainer (which she does on a regular basis), but can cover a lot more ground in her car. We use large pieces of foam around her trunk to help her sit in an upright position. Additional foam is also used to help support her left arm so she can reach the “go”switch with ease. With just the touch of one of her left fingers on the big red “go” switch mounted to the steering wheel, she speeds down the hallway easily, searching for some of her favorite friends and staff at school!

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Another student who has recently tested out her driving skills at Easter Seals is Madison, a young girl who just happens to be a classmate of Julianna’s. Madison just recently starting taking steps in a gait trainer at school, but like Julianna, is not quite strong enough (yet!) to walk on her own. It did not take Madison long to figure out how to push the “go” switch with one hand, and honk the horn with the other! Watch out, friends, because here she comes.

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Much research is published regarding independent mobility and its link to cognitive and social benefits for children. The girls’ smiles light up the school when they can move from classroom to classroom, without tiring, and say “Hi!” to many of the their other friends and staff in other classrooms! Keep on driving, girls. And know that you were warned, pedestrians, if you hear a honk coming from behind you in the hallways, you might need to move over and make room for our newest drivers!

Meet Georgia

by Melanie O’Brien

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When sweet 4-year-old Georgia was born, everything seemed pretty typical. However, when she was about 10-months old, her mom noticed her eyes seemed to be twitching and she wasn’t meeting her milestones. Georgia has a partial trisomy 14 disorder. She began receiving home-based services, including occupational, physical and speech therapies and special education. When Georgia turned 3, she started attending Easter Seals Early Intervention Center for half-days. She was doing well and it was quickly determined that she would really benefit from full-days in the Approved Private School program in the Yaffe Center. Since then, she has gone from a quiet and shy to very social! Georgia loves going to school and has become very interested in the world around her. She is initiating play, trying to dress herself and going up and down steps. When she isn’t at school, Georgia is playing with her sisters and taking advantage of all the museums and cultural opportunities that Philly has to offer. Georgia loves color and to laugh and she is painting the world with her beautiful smile!

Meet Georgia and the other Honorary Ambassadors at Walk With Me on June 4th at the Philadelphia Zoo. You can learn more and register at www.walkwithme.org/philadelphia.

Meet Brody

by Melanie O’Brien

Brody_web

Brody has a rare genetic disorder and scoliosis. However, what truly makes this 4-year-old unique is his outgoing personality. Brody began receiving home-based services shortly after he was born. His parents have a long history with Easter Seals through their volunteer efforts and knew it would be perfect for his center-based services. On his third birthday, Brody began preschool at our Delaware County Division. He loves school, everything from riding the bus to singing during circle time. His passion for school is clear when you look at all he has accomplished in a year. Brody is walking with a walker, and taking up to 15 independent steps. He can now use a spoon to eat. His speech is constantly improving and if you can’t understand what he is saying, he’ll give you a sign as he’s also using sign language to communicate. At home you can find Brody looking at books or working on puzzles. He loves to watch his favorite movie, Toy Story. His real passion, though, is music. He loves everything from “Head, shoulders, knees and toes” to “Uptown Funk”. Brody also loves going for donuts, which is a favorite Sunday tradition with his parents. When you meet him, it’s easy to see why people are so charmed by this sweet boy!

Brody is one of our honorary ambassadors for Walk With Me this year. Register for our Walk, which is June 4th at the Philadelphia Zoo, and meet Brody and our other ambassadors. It is a family friendly event that features a 5k, fun walk, music, food and fun!