Tag Archives: social development

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.

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!

 

 

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

Lila_and_Emma_1

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 Janiya and Dymir

Janiya_Damir_web

Janiya and Dymir are brother and sister, they would also call themselves best friends. The first few years of their lives were unstable and challenging for Janiya, 11 and Dymir, 12, who also have developmental delays. Today, with the support of their loving mother and the therapists at Easter Seals, they are doing fantastic. Janiya and Dymir are students at a cyber charter school and once a week Janiya receives Speech and Occupational Therapy, Dymir was also receiving the same therapies until recently. With the help of Easter Seals therapists, they have both improved their fine motor skills and their speech, which has led to greater self-confidence. When they come in for therapy, they literally run into the building, which is a wonderful testament to their experience. When they aren’t in school or therapy, they are doing typical kid stuff. Janiya is a Girl Scout and loves to dance. Dymir is a Boy Scout and he especially loves the camping trips. Together, they enjoy riding their bikes and seeing who can bounce the highest on a pogo stick. Janiya wants to be a police officer when she grows up and Dymir wants to be a firefighter. They have an energy that is inspiring and captivating and we can’t wait for you to meet them!

Meet Janiya and Dymir at Walk With Me on June 4th. Visit our Walk With Me website to register or learn more.

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.

Perspectives from a Student Teacher

by Elizabeth Anzevino

As a double elementary and special education major at Saint Joseph’s University, I had already experienced seven weeks student teaching in a Kindergarten classroom. I conducted lessons, created assessments, and practiced behavior management techniques. But I knew student teaching at Easter Seals would be an entirely different experience. I did have a background in working with students with Autism and developmental delays from my job as a substitute teacher back home in New Jersey, but I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect on my first day here back in March. But between then and now, as my time as a student teacher is finished, I learned more than I ever could have imagined from my cooperating teacher Megan Guthrie, the staff, and most importantly the students of the Bear Cubs classroom that I got to spend every day with.

After that first day I quickly understood the team effort that went into teaching this group of preschoolers. The coordination and planning between Megan, her assistant Robin, and all of the therapists that came through the door that day amazed me. I always knew that these team members worked together in order to carry out goals of an IEP and to manage a class, but I had no idea how dedicated and involved everyone truly was. As I took more of an observing role the first week or so, I quickly became integrated into the every day activities of the classroom, and I learned that a great deal of planning, structure, and attention to detail had to be given in order to get through the day as smoothly as possible, and in order for the kids to gain as much out of the day as they were able.

Throughout the seven weeks that I was a part of the Bear Cubs I learned more and more about each of the individual students, and it helped me as a teacher. Megan gave me the responsibility to take over circle time as well as whole and small group lessons, and I facilitated transitions from one activity to the next. With my lesson planning I truly got to implement what I had been learning about differentiation for the last four years; and I also saw how challenging it could be. Although I did a lot on my own I truly learned that talking to other teachers and therapists helped with making accommodations and modifications for each of my students. I learned firsthand how the IEP process worked, took and interpreted data on functional routines within our class, and I even got to conduct assessments using the Star Program. Megan and I made many changes to our classroom throughout my time at Easter Seals and it taught me that things will always be ever changing, and as a teacher I will need to be flexible. As much planning as we do, there are always things that pop up unexpectedly that we as teachers are responsible for handling, and in the end it makes us better educators.

The experience I received from Easter Seals is one that I will keep with me always. The environment there is so positive and energetic and made me love going each and every day. Now that student teaching is over and graduation is approaching, I truly miss every second of it, and it makes the time I spent there that much more special. As I start graduate school, I know that Easter Seals has taught me so much I will be able to take with me. I feel more than prepared for my future career because not only did I learn and observe while I was there, but I did it. I was the teacher. I will be forever grateful to Easter Seals and am so happy that I was placed there.