Tag Archives: Easter Seals of Southeastern PA

Splashing into positive possibilities

by Kathryn Wallace

This month in Bucks County  we are unveiling our PBIS Staff Acknowledgement Board!

fish-pic-copy

One of our very own teaching assistants designed and painted the board and fins. We polled our staff a few months ago and they chose to have a board for recognition. The purpose of the board to is highlight staff anonymously for their work with the students and with each other. We are going to highlight the actions of our staff when they are following the positive behavior principles by writing their good work on a “scale.”  (Learn about PBIS here, also here, and here) Our Core Leadership Team is excited to add another exciting resource to improve our blossoming positive workplace.

 

Sharing Assistive Technology Ideas in Australia

by Sandy Masayko, Director of Assistive Technology at Easter Seals of SE PA

During my recent trip to Australia, I was delighted to meet with therapists who are providing Assistive Technology (AT) and Augmentative /Alternative Communication (AAC) services in Melbourne.  On September 1, Anne Williams, of the Occupational Therapy Department at Swinburne University of Technology, arranged for me to meet with occupational therapists and speech/language pathologists from ComTEC. ComTEC is a division of Yooralla, a provider of services for people with disabilities in Melbourne.  As we talked, we discovered that share many similar concerns in providing AT and AAC services and devices, including funding, planning instruction and problem solving with families and caregivers.  Anne also invited faculty members from Swinburne in the areas of Occupational Therapy, Robotics and Biomedical Engineering to learn about the work we are doing in eye gaze technology with young children.

The following day, September 2, I made a short presentation to occupational therapists at the Vic-Tas (Victoria and Tasmania) Regional Conference of Occupational Therapy in Melbourne.  The paper, focusing on factors related to use of eye gaze technology with young children, was well received.  Attendees asked many questions.  I was very interested to learn about issues being addressed by occupational therapists in Australia.  The emphasis in many presentations was on self-reflective practice, engaging consumers and promoting participation for people with disabilities.

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Pictured in the photo, Anne Williams on the left and  Sandy Masayko on the right at the Vic-Tas Regional Conference of Occupational Therapy in Melbourne.

Montco Movin’ Up Day 2016

By Colleen Joyce

On Wednesday, June 15, the Friendship Academy’s Class of 2016 celebrated Movin’ Up Day. Movin’ Up Day is the Friendship Academy’s graduation ceremony. It was held this year at the Tucker and Perry Gresh Center, where Friendship Academy classes are also held. The hour-long ceremony took place outside and began at 1:00 PM. Dan Benonis, the Friendship Academy’s music therapist, welcomed students and their families with a lively arrangement of upbeat songs at the beginning of the ceremony. Everyone clapped along as the students began taking their seats and preparing for the graduation. Even some of our staff members came out to join in on the fun!

Afterwards, Mary Berlin made a commencement speech for the Class of 2016. All the teachers, teacher assistants, and therapists who worked with the students throughout the year watched on with excitement. Although the teachers of Classroom F and Classroom G were happy to see their students grow up and move on, they also couldn’t help but be a little sad to see them go.

After the commencement speech, the students were finally ready to graduate. Proud parents, family members, and friends watched as each member of the Class of 2016 received a diploma. All the children were excited to move on and smiled as they saw their fellow classmates graduate. Likewise, their parents, family, and friends will surely cherish the moment they got to see all the children shake hands with Mary and receive their diplomas.

After the ceremony, cake and punch were served to parents, family, and friends as everyone took pictures and said their goodbyes. All the graduates even got one last chance to play with their friends and teachers in the school’s playground after graduation was over! Some family members and graduates stayed after the ceremony to watch a slideshow of pictures and music that chronicled different moments during the year. The graduates reminisced with their family, fondly remembering all the new friends they made and all the new things they learned throughout the year!

Movin’ Up Day was an exciting and fun celebration! We couldn’t have done it without our staff though! We are sure that our incredible teachers, teacher assistants, and staff have prepared each graduate for their new schools and a lifetime of joy. We hope that our lessons involving a variety of disciplines, including reading, math, art, music, science, and technology have well-equipped students with reaching their future goals. The members of the Friendship Academy family also hope that our diverse range of students have made the future generations of children more compassionate and understanding members of society. The Friendship Academy would like to thank the parents and guardians of each graduate since they allowed us to play, learn, love, and grow with their wonderful children. We will miss them all! Congratulations to the Class of 2016!

 

 

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!

New to the family

by Jeanine Johnson

I’m a recent recruit to the Easter Seals family. I’ve been hired in a newly created Data Secretary position. And yes, the job is as glamorous as the title implies!

All jokes aside, every position contributes to the success of the organization running smoothly and fulfilling its mission. My welcome by the staff has been extraordinary. The transition has been seamless. I’d like to share with you something that has started over the last week or so, that makes me smile until my cheeks hurt. There is this student here named Max. He has extremely limited mobility. I met him and we instantly clicked. He now greets me by forming kissing motions with his lips. I blow kisses back. He obviously knows the universal language of love. We both smile from ear to ear and it keeps me smiling for a long time after. I don’t think I could have anticipated such a wonderful perk when I decided to join Easter Seals. It’s a daily reminder of the importance of the purpose we serve and the potential joy we can give and receive from simple acts!

New friends

Community Sourced Christmas

by Rebecca Erb


Delaware Valley Children’s Charity has been our community partner for decades.  I’ve been here for 15 years and it started well before my time. They are the link between our families in need and community members that want to help families during the holidays.  We provide them with wish lists from our students and their siblings and they share that information with their participants.  They support all of Easter Seals in Southeastern PA and dozens of other community organizations around the Philadelphia area.  We are so fortunate to have them as a partner. It is this spirit of giving that makes the holidays magical!

For our families in Bucks County A real look inside the sleigh

Grand Mom Dot

by Pat Fitzmyer

Happy 93 years young to our own Grand Mom Dot! Grand Mom Dot is a feeding assistant in the Starfish classroom in the Philadelphia Yaffe Center.

Grand Mom Dot

Grand Mom Dot began her association with Easter Seals in Philadelphia after her retirement over 30 years ago when she joined the Foster Grandparent program. Grand Mom Dot worked for many years at the Yaffe Center mostly with Miss Julie in the Crickets classroom. She was always the life of the party and really enjoyed her interactions with the children. Sadly, the foster grandparent program ended here and Grand Mom resumed her life as a retiree. She was restless in retirement and called Philadelphia one day to ask about volunteer opportunities at Easter Seals. Volunteer, you say?  How about employment? And that is how she began her life as a feeding assistant in the Starfish classroom.

We salute you and love you and look forward to a continuing relationship with the Starfish classroom.

Happy Birthday Grand Mom Dot!

The Beauty of Toy Organization!

by Kathryn Wallace

I am an Early Intervention Physical Therapist who works with children from birth to 2 years of age in their natural environment. I wanted to share these easy tips to keeping playtime more organized and purposeful. For me, it leads to more productive Physical Therapy sessions in the home.

Each set of toys has a place.
  • The child, pictured above, knows where to put the toys away. For example, each of the stacking cups and books are in separate bins.
Make sure the toys are accessible and the child can see all of the toys when he/she looks into the bin.
  • A toy box filled with smaller toys is very overwhelming for a child. Instead, put dress up or larger stuffed animals in there.
Less is better
  • Children learn through play. When they are presented with too many toys they have a tendency throw or dump the toys. It is important to sit down and teach a child how to use the toy. The child will attend better if there are fewer options.

Moving Up

The end of the school year is a time to celebrate. Staff, children and their families have worked hard throughout the year to achieve goals that are designed to increase independence. Some of the accomplishments are big, like walking or talking (either verbally or with the help of a communication device). Others may be a bit more subtle, like increased attention or social skills. Whatever the accomplishment may be, the time, dedication and effort put into every one was big.

The end of the year also means, for some of children, it is time to transition. We have loved the opportunity to work with every child. As they transition we celebrate them in Moving Up Ceremonies. Staff, families and students come together for the celebration. The music therapist helps to lead the children in songs and the children receive certificates. It is beautiful moment in which the success of each child can be truly celebrated.

Though the children are “moving up” staff will be available to help families through the transition process. Some children will also be here for school in the summer. No matter where they are, they are forever in our hearts!

It’s Just Not Fair

by Michael Murphy

“It’s Just Not Fair” is often heard throughout a preschool classroom, more so in an inclusive classroom such as Friendship Academy where students are treated and educated as individuals; meaning that praise is always given, but rewards are based on expectations of those individuals. We get excited for each and every achievement that happens in our classroom, but even the youngest of students notices when one student has a reward bin, or a penny board, or gets to take breaks after long activities. They catch on quick, they can get upset, they can sometimes be right.

As a teacher I explain the situation in ways they understand, ways they can remember. I dance until they smile, I offer them the world. They still know it is not a sticker but it is enough for the moment to let them forget.

As a preschool teacher, I get excited for all sorts of achievements. I may dance and sing more than I teach. A successful circle time, I dance. An awesome line in the hallway, I sing. A classroom of good listeners, I do both.

As a teacher of Friendship Academy it gets a little different. All types of students have all types of achievements. Friends utilize full sentences, I sing. Friends keep hands to themselves or find ways to control themselves in exciting activities, I dance. Friends make basic vocalizations, I do both. Friends engage in a flawless transition from one activity to another, I do both. Friends go a whole day without a meltdown, I do both. Friends engage in an activity and try their best for two minutes, I lose my mind for that.

What is really “just not fair” is that after all the work, after all the success, after all the praise and rewards. I don’t get to watch them grow anymore. They go off to elementary school. They work to be the good leaders in the classroom, the examples, the students who engage because they want to, not because they have to. And then I start from scratch, one step at a time. Maybe it is better this way because after all the leaps and bounds…

I’m running out of stickers.