Tag Archives: Easter Seals Bucks Division

Giving back this holiday season!

by Kathryn Wallace

At Bucks this fall, we provided food baskets to families in need. Each classroom and department made 1-2 food boxes. As a staff, we celebrated with a pot luck breakfast when the boxes of food were collected. This year, we decided to do the boxes early so our families could have the food in time for Thanksgiving!

Staff in Bucks County giving back

Staff in Bucks County giving back

Six Super Rules

by Michael Murphy

At Friendship Academy in Bucks County, following the rules is not as hard as you’d think. While the children all learn differently, we have really had the benefit on controlling behaviors following six simple rules. The rules are not a list of ‘Don’t’ and ‘No’, which can intimidate and often do not help students behave any better, nor are they loosely described by any means. Our six rules are very closely tied to our classroom expectations as labeled through our PBIS initiative (Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports). Our six rules are:

Hands Help

Hearts Care

Ears Listen

Feet Wait

Eyes Watch

Be a Friend

The nice thing about these rules, best utilized during times of instruction (circle, story, activity\craft instruction, etc.), is that they describe aspects of the individual child that can be controlled with self-regulation and practice. Instead of telling students what not to do, and providing examples of how they can (poorly) behave to receive some additional attention, the rules simply act as reminders of what their bodies are capable of and how they can best use their bodies to their advantage.

What has made our rules all the better is tying them, in part, to a superhero theme. Thinking of the different aspects that make superheroes special, yet still require them to work in teams to solve problems, helps to create some additional hints towards working together with our peers, finding individual strengths and using new ideas for the greater good. Many preschool and early learning programs use a similar “Be A Superfriend” strategy that helps to recognize the everyday superstars that our children can be, through simple, kind and intentional acts in daily interaction.

Recently Edwin Gonzalez, Friendship Academy’s artistic Teaching Assistant, has created an exciting set of pictures and classroom reminders that help students focus on their expectations. The pictures show diversity, from Wonder Woman’s watching eyes to The Incredible Hulk’s waiting feet to Iron Man’s mechanical caring heart. They are bright and colorful, much like the students we teach. The pictures speak to all types of children, whether they like the hero or just the picture itself. The pictures grab their attention just enough for the teacher to direct it to the lesson. The pictures are unique and even the process of putting them together drew attention from the students as they watched Edwin plan, draw, color, laminate and post. You could tell that they already felt a little super about each addition to the series.

In addition to our Superfriends, there is much to be said about the everyday unsung heroes, the Teacher’s Assistants, the Bus Aides, the therapists, nursing staff, individual support staff, those that cook, clean, file or place calls. We are all part of a team of heroes. When we focus on what we are able to control, our body and our attitude, we can think more positively about the effects our actions have on our team, and more so, how we can contribute to make a team stronger. A team is only as strong as the weakest link, and if your weakest link is the Incredible Hulk, you are in pretty good shape.

 

A Simple Solution

by Kathryn Wallace

I am a Physical Therapist in Bucks County and I wanted to share a quick tip when working with children in their walkers in their home environment. Some of the children with whom I work require maximal assistance when walking. Recently I was working with Paige,  a graduate of Easter Seals in her home environment.

In this session, I was cueing Paige to take steps and mom was holding toys to keep her head up. The toys motivate her to walk forward. Mom mentioned that when there isn’t a second person she is not sure how to motivate Paige to walk. Together we came up with the idea pictured below. We mounted the iPad on the IV pole and used a broom to move the pole as Paige walks forward.

More than you think

by Michael Murphy

It is easy to say that kids will be kids. Easy to think that their silly actions are a step to growing up, a phase they will outgrow, or a gasp for attention. As the Friendship Academy teacher at Easter Seals’ Bucks County Division, I see a variety of behaviors and work alongside with numerous professionals to decipher what the children, some able to communicate and others who struggle, are trying to say. Each action is a message, a question, or a statement and all the adults have to do is listen. Imagine that, adults not using their listening ears!

When we ask a student to clean up the floor, they don’t know what that means. A nephew of mine was told to clean up the floor at home, and he actually picked up every single toy… and put it on a higher surface. The floor was clean… the table, tv stand, bookshelf and couch were not. However, he cleaned up the floor and actually showed an impressive ability to follow directions. As adults, we have to think about how we explain our directions. Children throwing toys during clean up time or continuing to play could communicate that they are unsure of what “clean up” can mean. Instead, at Friendship Academy, we give shorter instructions;

Now David, you’re not doing that right, you’ll be in trouble unless you clean up all your toys”

becomes “Put in bin, David.”

Think about a boss giving you directions as an adult. How long does it take for you to tune them out? Children are saying more than you think by not cleaning up.

Kids like to move! They jump off couches, run into walls and just won’t stay still. They are trying to tell you something, just listen! I like to think that I get a lot out of my kids when they’re at our circle time. Sometimes I can get up to 15 preschoolers of varying abilities sitting for up to 30 minutes, and its not by having them all sit still and quiet while I do the lesson that I wanted to do. I make THEM the lesson! Their ideas, their questions, their movements. I give opportunities to get loud, to move around and to be silly, and after that they are ready to listen. We assigned a portion of the room as the jumping corner, and that is not to punish the child who wants to jump and send them away, but it is a way to provide these much needed opportunities to students to help them wake up and refocus.

Again think about a long day at work, staring at the screens or dealing with customers over and over… sometimes you need to step away and shake it off. A child’s wiggles, jumps, claps… its not to ruin your day. It is saying more than you think. It is asking you to give them something to do to help them refocus.

No David stop doing that right now, I need you to sit.”

becomes “Lets jump (wiggle, clap…) ten times and then try this again.”

And yes, I’m that parent running up and down the aisles at Target because, frankly, I don’t like clothes shopping either.

Kids hit! They may do so out of internal frustration, external frustration, or just to get you to listen to them. My son gave my a shove to my chest today while I was checking my text messages, and I was about to get very upset until I realized that, from time to time, I’ll give him a pat on the shoulder when I know he is too into Fruit Ninja or Netflix. Kids learn more than you’d think from just watching us in action as adults. At their most extreme, students need to learn how to deal with their frustrations, but children don’t always hit out of anger, usually just out of frustration for not knowing or possessing the best words to use to solve their problems. At Friendship Academy, long before any kind of threat or punishment, we share some words to use. “Are you angry?” “Do you need help?” “Would you like to do something new?” These are all phrases we use when we observe an event getting ready to boil over. They are openers to allow students to begin a larger conversation and to help increase their available language. Sometimes we just have to provide some of the attention that that child is seeking. Children are well aware that their physical aggression will bring more attention than saying “Excuse me.” until they have their time to speak.

I cannot speak for every child, but I have seen students of varied cognitive and physical abilities respond well to shortened instructions, a respectful tone, an opportunity to do something THEY enjoy, and a simple opener to have their own time to talk. Children will grow to exceed your expectations, however high you hold them, they will do more than you think they ever could. The best way to get them to reach higher and higher is not to tell them what NOT to do, but to provide them with guidance towards what they should do. And always praise, even for failed attempts because when you try hard at your job, don’t you want some recognition too?

 

What’s Qoming On at Bucks County?

by Michael Murphy

Thanks to some dedicated staff and several generous community technology grants, Easter Seals in Bucks County has been able to install Qomo boards in each classroom. A Qomo board is an exciting interactive whiteboard with an outstanding variety of applications in today’s classroom. Since the boards were installed in the fall of 2015, each classroom at the Margaret “Judge” Brooks Center in Levittown, PA has worked to utilize the technology as best as we can. Our teachers have used the boards in new and diverse ways, as the populations and purposes of our students can be very unique. We use the boards in routine activities, like circle and calendar times, while also testing its limits and challenging the limits of our students in more academic and focused activities. The entire staff has challenged their tech skills at one time or another in order to best utilize these tools, even going so far as to plan gatherings among staff to share and troubleshoot new ideas or problems. The initiative of the staff shows a promising dedication to best serving our clients in all facets of learning.

Often children are said to have too much screen time at young ages, however as educators we know that any experience can be turned into a learning adventure if students are taught to utilize tools in the best ways. At home my children can unlock my cell phone, find (and delete) applications and, of course, exit out of anything they do not like. At the earliest of ages students are learning to solve simple problems. When applied to our Qomo boards, we have instant engagement from our students and are able to watch them solve simple problems, accomplish tasks and apply technology to learning activities. Whether the required tasks are simple or complex we try to address a variety of goals.

As the Friendship Academy teacher at Bucks we can have a challenging group of 3-5 year old students of a wide range of physical, cognitive and emotional abilities. We use the Qomo to encourage students to follow the class expectations if they want the next turn. You’ve never seen such perfect demonstrations of Criss Cross Applesauce. We achieve physical goals at times by having students use a non-preferred arm, reaching high or low, or even just standing with minimal support for a period of time. We get students to patiently wait their turns, while still engaged in conversation and thoughtful discussion. They wait. They try. They learn. They succeed. One by one the children get more and more excited for their turn, turning an average attention span of a few minutes into an extended, sometimes twenty minute activity where everyone gets a turn to show what they know.

The activity was something simple, dragging shapes to a matching space on a tangram. No curveballs here, just your basic shapes. When the shapes were all added to the tangram, the picture came to life. A duck, a turtle, a horse… nothing spectacular. Students came up one by one and added a piece of their choice by dragging their finger across the board, or requesting to use the “Magic Wand” (a simple stylus that doubles as a light saber). The students who are sitting on the rug are encouraged to make predictions about what piece will be chosen, what the picture will turn into or counting the number of other shapes left on the board. When the student picks their shape their friends clapped or gave thumbs up and watched as another student came up to do the same. At the end the students confirmed their predictions, laughed at the animation and calmed themselves back down to be ready for the next tangram. Not an earth shattering lesson, but in an inclusive classroom it truly included everybody. We worked together to achieve a common goal. Students felt confident enough to share their ideas, predictions and encouragement for their peers. At the board, students were able to make a simple choice, under considerable pressure in front of their peers and sometimes explained or defended their choice. Every student walked away with positive praise from teachers, students and staff and a new approach to their ability in the classroom.

Through these exercises we are practicing patience, sharing, cooperation, and determination. These are some of the most difficult lessons to teach young children. While the Qomo board is so much more in each classroom depending on its usage, at its most basic level it is an automatic motivator that achieves whatever goals the teacher wants to address. With a focus on individualized education, there is no better way to teach and assess students of such varied ages and abilities than I have seen when that board turns on and I start my lesson.

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!

Repair Angels

by Sandra Masayko

Easter Seals Bucks County Division was visited recently by three Repair Angels! Daniel Frank, a mechanical engineering graduate student at the University of Florida, recruited two of his friends, Adam Smith of Bethlehem and Corazón Irizarry of Philadelphia to help Easter Seals Assistive Technology Department get broken electronic toys repaired and back into the classrooms.  Adam is an electronics technician and Corazón is a medical student at the University of Pennsylvania.  Together these volunteers soldered, wired, glued and reconstructed dozens of toys. This saved Easter Seals thousands of dollars in replacement costs and more importantly, brought the toys back into the classrooms where children learn through play and manipulation of the toys.  Thank you Repair Angels!Repair Angels cropped 1